A Periodic Federal Science Update

Barry Myers, CEO of Accuweather, Nominated as Next NOAA Administrator – As has been long expected, on October 11 the President announced his intent to nominate Mr. Barry Myers as the next NOAA Administrator.  If confirmed, Barry Myers of Pennsylvania will serve as Under Secretary for Oceans and Atmosphere, Department of Commerce (NOAA Administrator).  Mr. Myers has served as CEO of AccuWeather since 2007.  He is or has been active in the World Meteorological Organization, World Federation of Scientists, American Meteorological Society (AMS), and other organizations.  He served as a member of the nationally recognized Smeal College of Business.  Mr. Myers is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He graduated from the Smeal College of Business at Penn State and received a J.D. from Boston University Law School.  Adm Tim Gallaudet was confirmed last week to be the Deputy NOAA Administrator.

NSF Announces STEM Education Advisory Panel – NSF has announced the establishment of the STEM Education Advisory Panel to provide advice and recommendations to the interagency Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM), assess CoSTEM’s progress in carrying out responsibilities related to the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, and help identify need or opportunity to update the Federal Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education 5-Year Strategic Plan.  For more information contact the responsible NSF official, Dr. William Lewis, Acting Assistant Director for Education and Human Resources at the National Science Foundation.

Senate Confirms Key Commerce Department Nominations – On October 5, the United States Senate confirmed the President’s nominations of Adm. Timothy Gallaudet to the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere (Deputy Administrator for NOAA) and Dr. Walter Copan to be Undersecretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology (NIST Administrator).

National Oceanic Partnership Program (NOPP) 2018 Broad Agency Announcement Deadline Extended -- In July 2017 the Division of Ocean Sciences (OCE) of the National Science Foundation announced that they are partnering with the Office of Naval Research (ONR), NASA, and NSF’s Office of Polar Programs (OPP), via the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP), in a “Broad Agency Announcement” (ONR BAA # N000014-17-S-B016) regarding three ocean research and technology topics of mutual and emerging interest including:  CubeSat Sensors for Investigating Littoral Ocean and Atmospheric Drivers; Improved and Routine Production, Stewardship and Application of the Group for High Resolution Sea Surface Temperature Data; and In-situ Ocean Sensor Research and Technology Development.  The October 16, 2017 deadline for the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP) 2018 Broad Agency Announcement has been extended one week until October 23, 2017. This change affects the submission deadline for the Topic 1 and Topic 2 full proposal and Topic 3 Letters of Intent. The Topic 3 full proposal deadline remains on January 29, 2018.

NSF Seeks Information on Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure – On October 6 NSF issued a Request for Information on existing and future needs for mid-scale research infrastructure projects.  The purpose of this RFI is to assess the needs for mid-scale RI from the US-based NSF science and engineering community in order to develop a strategy, in accordance with the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (AICA). The AICA requires NSF to "evaluate the existing and future needs, across all disciplines supported by the Foundation, for mid-scale projects" and "develop a strategy to address the needs." This RFI focuses on mid-scale research infrastructure projects with an anticipated NSF contribution of between $20 million and $100 million towards construction and/or acquisition. This range is of primary interest to NSF as it will help us anticipate the potential impact of lowering an existing threshold as well as identifying promising projects that remain difficult to address within program budgets due to the comparatively large investment needed in a relatively short period of time. After the submission period ends, and the information is analyzed, NSF will summarize the high-level insights drawn from this analysis for the science community and internal NSF use. The deadline for submission to this RFI is December 8, 2017. 

Back in January 2012, the National Science Board issued an evaluation of the need for mid-scale instrumentation in response to the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (ACRA 2010).  In that report the NSB concluded at that time:  Overall, the Board finds that the current research infrastructure investments across the Foundation are in alignment with the Board’s earlier forecasts and recommendations on funding and prioritization – including for mid-scale research instrumentation. In particular, the Board finds that NSF’s current balance of small, medium and large instrumentation is sound, and that the variety of mechanisms by which NSF prioritizes, solicits, evaluates, and supports mid-scale instrumentation – both directly, and indirectly through large centers and facilities – provides flexibility and vigor to NSF’s efforts. Consequently, although the Board’s evaluation points to the importance of continuing strongly to support mid-scale instrumentation, the Board does not recommend that NSF expand existing Foundation-wide programs or create a new Foundation-wide program for mid-scale instrumentation at this time. (emphasis added).

National Association of Marine Laboratories to Hold Biennial Fall Meeting – On October 24 and 25, at the Cousteau Center in Tuckerton, New Jersey, the National Association of Marine Laboratories (NAML) will be meeting to discuss and take action on a number of issues important to NAML members including: fisheries research priorities at NOAA and public policy priorities for NAML going forward.  A variety of science presentations related to shellfish research, coastal management user conflict; development of a regional GeoDataBase; Sentinel Site Initiative: A networked approach to early detection of environmental change.  More information on this meeting including registration; the agenda; and lodging can be found here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Senate Commerce Committee Approves AV START Act – Earlier this week the Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved the American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies (AV START) Act introduced by Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) and Senator John Thune (R-SD), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. The bipartisan legislation will help advance the testing and development of self-driving vehicles that have the potential to improve mobility, reduce accidents, save thousands of lives lost on American roads each year, and ensure that the United States remains at the forefront of advanced technologies and innovation. The AV START Act will take steps to modernize existing federal motor vehicle safety standards and rules, which were written before the development of self-driving vehicle technologies and have not been updated to address these rapidly developing technologies. The legislation will also strengthen cybersecurity protections for self-driving vehicles, improve mobility for Americans with disabilities, promote consumer education on the capabilities and limitations of self-driving.

House Passes FY 2018 Budget Resolution While Senate Budget Committee Approves its Own Budget Plan for FY 2018 – This week the House of Representatives approved H. Con. Res 71, the FY 2018 Budget Resolution.  The Senate Budget Committee also approved its own version of a budget resolution for FY 2018 and beyond.  The budget resolution sets a framework for spending by broad categories as well as revenue and deficit targets for FY 2018 and beyond.  The budget resolution also contains spending target for total discretionary spending for both defense and non-defense programs and while these target spending levels are important, for them to become binding the Budget Control Act (BCA) has to be amended and signed into law.  The budget resolution is not legislation that goes to the President and thus does not get signed into law.

The House budget resolution exceeds the defense BCA cap by providing $621.5 billion, and sets nondefense discretionary spending at $511 billion, $5 billion below the FY18 cap. The Senate budget adheres to BCA spending caps of $549 billion in defense and $516 billion for nondefense discretionary spending.  Both House and Senate budget resolutions contain tax reconciliation instructions setting the stage for tax reform. However, the House and Senate budgets approach tax reconciliation instructions differently. The Senate version allows up to a $1.5 trillion deficit increase over 10 years, but the House version does not allow any deficit increases. Before tax-writing committees in either chamber can begin drafting legislation, the House and Senate will need to resolve differences on the terms, conditions and budget levels in the budget resolution.

NSF Computer Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Research Infrastructure Funding Opportunity -- The CISE Research Infrastructure (CRI) program drives discovery and learning in the core CISE disciplines of the three participating CISE divisions by supporting the creation and enhancement of world-class research infrastructure that will support focused research agendas in computer and information science and engineering. This infrastructure will enable CISE researchers to advance the frontiers of CISE research. Further, through the CRI program, CISE seeks to ensure that individuals from a diverse range of academic institutions, including minority-serving and predominantly undergraduate institutions, have access to such infrastructure. The CRI program supports two classes of awards: Institutional Infrastructure (II) awards support the creation of new (II-NEW) CISE research infrastructure or the enhancement (II-EN) of existing CISE research infrastructure to enable world-class CISE research opportunities at the awardee and collaborating institutions; and Community Infrastructure (CI) awards support the planning (CI-P) for new CISE community research infrastructure, the creation of new (CI-NEW) CISE research infrastructure, the enhancement (CI-EN) of existing CISE infrastructure, or the sustainment (CI-SUSTAIN) of existing CISE community infrastructure to enable world-class CISE research opportunities for broad-based communities of CISE researchers that extend well beyond the awardee institutions. Each CI award may support the operation of such infrastructure, ensuring that the awardee institution(s) is (are) well positioned to provide a high quality of service to CISE community researchers expected to use the infrastructure to realize their research goals. More information can be found here.  

NOAA Releases FY 2018-2020 Board Agency Announcement (BAA) – On October 2, NOAA released its multi-year Broad Agency Announcement to encourage research, education and outreach, innovative projects, or sponsorships that are not specifically addressed through NOAA’s competitive discretionary programs. Funding for activities described in the BAA is contingent upon the availability of Fiscal Year 2018, Fiscal Year 2019, and Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations. As an agency with responsibilities for maintaining and improving the viability of marine and coastal ecosystems, for delivering valuable weather, climate, and water information and services, for understanding the science and consequences of climate change, and for supporting the global commerce and transportation upon which we all depend, NOAA uses these BAAs as part of its efforts to remain current and responsive in an ever-changing world. More information on this BAA can be found here

Federal Science Partners Briefs Michigan Tech Faculty on the Public Policy Landscape Facing Research and Education – Mr. Joel Widder and Ms. Meg Thompson, founders of Federal Science Partners, this week traveled to Houghton, Michigan to brief Michigan Tech faculty and administrators on the current state of affairs with respect to federal funding and related policy issues associated with higher education and related research issues.  The presentation highlighted the current and projected declining trend in federal support for non-defense discretionary spending and its impact on research and education.  The presentation also included various comparisons with trends being observed by our international competitors.  A copy of the presentation can be downloaded here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Dr. Neil Jacobs Nominated for Senior NOAA Position -- ccording to SpacepolicyOnLine.com , President Trump has nominated Neil Jacobs to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction.  The post would also put him in the second tier of NOAA’s leadership reporting directly to the Administrator.  Dr. Steven Volz, Assistant Administrator for NOAA Satellite and Information Services, is currently filling that spot on an acting basis. Dr. Jacobs is the Chief Atmospheric Scientist at Panasonic Avionics Corporation.  The White House statement explains that he directs R&D for the aviation weather observing program and numerical weather forecasts, and chairs the American Meteorological Society’s Forecast Improvement Group. He has dual B.S. degrees in mathematics and physics from the University of South Carolina, and an M.S. in air-sea interaction and a Ph.D. in numerical modeling from the University of North Carolina. The Administration has yet to nominate anyone to be Administrator of NOAA, but has nominated RADM Timothy Gallaudet (Ret.) to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Deputy Administrator of NOAA.  The Senate Commerce Committee is expected to vote on his nomination on October 4, then it must be voted on by the full Senate.

President Extends Charters of Key Advisory Committees via Executive Order – On September 29, the President Issued an Executive Order extending the terms of a number of advisory committees including the Presidential Advisory Committee on Science and Technology (which advises the President’s Science Advisor for which no nomination has yet been announced.  Other committees whose terms were extended until September 30, 2019 include: The National Medal of Science, the Marine Protected Areas Federal Advisory Committee which reports to the Department of Commerce; and the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

NSF Division of Civil, Mechanical and Manufacturing Innovation (CMMI) Announces Reorganization – CMMI’s Infrastructure Management and Extreme Events (IMEE) program has changed to Humans, Disasters and the Built Environment (HDBE). IMEE will no longer accept proposals; active awards in IMEE will be managed by the HDBE Program Director and will remain eligible for supplements and extensions. The HDBE program supports fundamental, multidisciplinary research on the interactions between humans and the built environment within and among communities exposed to natural, technological and other types of hazards and disasters. The program seeks proposals that enrich understanding and explore implications of these interactions, whether through theoretical, methodological or empirical advances, thereby contributing to society's capabilities to learn from, prepare for and respond to hazards and disasters.

President Announces $200 Million STEM Education Initiative to be Managed by the Education Department – On September 25, the President released a Memorandum addressed to the Secretary of Education describing STEM education as a key priority of the Administration. “With the growing role of technology in driving the American economy, many jobs increasingly require skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) – including, in particular, Computer Science…As part of my Administration’s commitment to supporting American workers and increasing economic growth and prosperity, it is critical that we educate and train our future workforce to compete and excel in lucrative and important STEM fields…”  The President calls on the Department of Education to devote at least $200 million in grant funds per year for the promotion of high-quality STEM education, particularly Computer Science.

GAO Issues Report on NSF Actions Needed to Improve Oversight of Indirect Costs -- For National Science Foundation (NSF) awards during fiscal years 2000 through 2016, budgeted indirect costs varied from 16 to 24 percent of the total annual amounts the agency awarded. The variation from year-to-year was based on various factors such as by the types of activities supported by the awards and the types of awardee organizations receiving the awards.  NSF has developed internal guidance for setting indirect cost rates (ICR) but has not consistently implemented this guidance and has not included certain details and procedures.  For example, NSF has not consistently implemented its guidance because it has not yet required NSF staff to follow aspects of its guidance, such as using a documentation checklist that NSF developed to verify that an awardee’s ICR proposal package is complete.  NSF did not include details on supervisory activities, such as the criteria to be used by the supervisor of the ICR process for assessing an ICR proposal’s risk level and mitigating risks at each level. And NSF did not include certain procedures, such as for implementing new provisions of federal guidance on setting ICRs. NSF officials described ways that staff implement procedures even though the procedures are not fully detailed or included in guidance. Nevertheless, with complete guidance that includes the missing details and procedures and that is consistently followed, NSF could better ensure that ICRs are set consistently and in accordance with federal guidance on indirect costs and with federal internal control standards.  The GAO report is available here

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Navy Task Force Ocean Meeting October 3 -- Task Force Ocean’s (TFO) Executive Steering Committee will convene its third meeting 10 a.m. on October 3 at the Consortium for Ocean Leadership in Washington D.C. Welcoming remarks will be made by COL President and CEO Rear Adm. (ret.) John White and keynote remarks will be provided by Oceanographer of the Navy Rear Adm. John Okon and Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. David Hahn. The meeting agenda includes a review of summer workshop reports, discussion on how the TFO vision can be brought to reality and a thorough assessment of current and future action items. Task Force Ocean is a cooperative effort to advance ocean science in the U.S. to ensure the U.S. Navy maintains a competitive advantage in its ability to exploit the ocean environment. It is a Navy-led task force with an Executive Steering Committee co-chaired by RDML Okon, the Oceanographer and Navigator of the Navy and RADM Hahn, the Chief of Naval Research. TFO is focused on five lines of effort: 1) sensing and observation, 2) understanding, modeling and prediction, 3) Naval applications and decision-aids, 4) human capital and technical workforce and 5) strategic communications. More information about TFO and the October 3 meeting can be found here.

Senate Passes Sea Grant Reauthorization Bill by Unanimous Consent -- On September 14, 2017, the Senate passed, via unanimous consent, S. 129, the National Sea Grant College Program Amendments Act of 2017 (the Sea Grant Reauthorization Act). The bill would reauthorize the Sea Grant from 2017 through 2022. The bill also would make a number of program adjustments, including: creating a more equitable placement of Sea Grant Fellows in congressional offices; giving the head of any Federal agency direct hiring authority to hire a Knauss fellow who successfully fulfilled the requirements of their fellowship for up to 2 years after completion of their fellowship; adding aquaculture as a priority activity; an increase of 0.5 percent for funding the national office; and encouragement to use the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) to assist in meeting critical staffing needs.

This bill would authorize appropriations of $75.6 million for FY 2017, $79.38 million for FY 2018, $83.35 million for FY 2019, $87.52 million for FY 2020, $91.9 million for FY 2021, and $96.5 million for FY 2022. An additional $6 million would be authorized for competitive grants for specific priority activities, including non-native species, oyster restoration and research, harmful algal blooms, regional or national priority issues including resiliency, aquaculture, and fisheries. The major difference between the bill passed in the Senate on September 14, 2017 and the bill as reported from the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation in March of this year, is the addition of a new, “good government” section requiring the Secretary of Commerce to notify Congress 30 days in advance of NOAA’s intent to designate any new Sea Grant Colleges or Sea Grant Institutions. House action, at this point, remains unscheduled as the issue of the distribution of Knauss fellows among Congressional offices remains unresolved.

NSF Ocean Sciences Dear Colleague Letter on Seafloor Science and Engineering Research – NSF is interested in supporting efforts to advancing the technology related to marine sensors for use in the deep sea environment. Future sensing technology needs to be intelligent, autonomous, agile, and have the capability of communicating with other sensors in real time. Future sensors will also need the capability of being deployed for long durations; perhaps extracting energy from the ambient environment. Engineering advances are required to explore Earth in the least-invasive manner and with a minimal environmental footprint. New methods for sub-seafloor imaging are also envisioned. Such new technology could be applicable to sensing in other settings with extreme conditions. NSF is interested in proposals to support conferences or workshops that focus on the engineering and marine science challenges for such technology.  More information on these workshops is available in the NSF Dear Colleague Letter.

House Committee to Hold Hearing on the Great American Eclipse -- The Subcommittee on Research and Technology and the Subcommittee on Space of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology will hold a hearing titled The Great American Eclipse: To Totality and Beyond on Thursday, September 28, 2017 at 9:30 a.m. in Room 2318 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The purpose of the hearing is to review what scientific knowledge was gained from studying the eclipse, how U.S. telescopes and other scientific instruments were used to capture the eclipse, lessons learned from engaging the public and students in grades K-12 in STEM education and activities surrounding the event, and future preparations for eclipses in 2019 and 2024. Witnesses will include: Dr. James Ulvestad, Assistant Director (Acting), Directorate for Mathematical & Physical Sciences, National Science Foundation; Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator, Science Mission Directorate, NASA; Dr. Heidi Hammel, Executive Vice President, Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy; Dr. Matthew Penn, Astronomer, National Solar Observatory; and Ms. Michelle Nichols-Yehling, Director of Public Observing, Adler Planetarium.  More information on this hearing can be found here.

Senate Commerce Committee to Hold Nomination Hearing for New Leaders of NOAA and NIST – On September 27 the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee chaired by Senator John Thune (R-SD) will hold a hearing on several recent nominations including the one for Rear Admiral (RET) Tim Gallaudent to be the Deputy Administrator of NOAA and Dr. Walter Copan to be the next Director of the National Institute for Standards and Technology.  The hearing will take place at 10:30 in the morning in Room 253 Russell Senate Office Building. The hearing will be streamed from the Committee’s web site.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

House Passes Omnibus Appropriations Bill for FY 2018 – On September 14, 2017, after several long days of debate, the House gave final approval to HR 3354.  This bill contains all twelve individual appropriations bills marked up and reported out the House Appropriations Committee earlier this summer.  Four of the twelve were passed prior to the start of the August recess (Defense, Military Construction/VA, Energy and Water, Legislative Branch).  These four served as the so-called security appropriations bill.  The remaining eight, which are primarily non-defense discretionary bills (Commerce-Justice-Science, Agriculture, Labor-HHS-Education, Financial Services, Interior/EPA, Transportation and Housing, State and Foreign Operations, and Homeland Security), were brought to the floor as a single bill and during the debate, the House considered 342 amendments to the bill.  The following is the disposition of some of the amendments adopted that are of interest to our readership:

·      Rep. Lamar Smith, Chairman of the House Science Committee successfully offered an amendment to increase by .5% the amount of funding within the NSF research account for physical and biological sciences;

·      Rep. Flores from Texas and others passed an amendment prohibiting the use of funds to implement the National Ocean Policy Executive Order in the CJS title of the omnibus appropriations act. Yet, Rep Cicilline and others were successful in their amendment that deleted language restricting funding in the Agriculture title of the bill for the National Ocean Policy Executive Office;

·      Reps. Lipinski and LoBiondo were successful in their amendment to restore $10.1 million for on-site information technology officers in each National Weather Service Forecast office.  These members also successfully restored $1.2 million in funding to eliminate staff reductions at the National Centers for Environmental Prediction;

·      Led by Rep. Bonamici, the House voted to increase funding for ocean acidification and decrease by the same amount to highlight the importance of ocean acidification to coastal communities;

·      Reps Buchanan and Mast from Florida successfully increased $8 million the funding within the National Ocean Service to address harmful algal bloom issues while reducing the Department of Commerce’s management account by the same amount; and

·      Rep Soto successfully increased funding for EPA’s National Estuary Program by nearly $500,000.

The bill was adopted largely along party lines by the vote of 211 to 198.  It is considered very unlikely the Senate will take up this bill anytime soon.

DARPA Young Faculty Award Program -- The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Young Faculty Award (YFA) program aims to identify and engage rising stars in junior faculty positions in academia and equivalent positions at non-profit research institutions and expose them to Department of Defense (DoD) and National Security challenges and needs. In particular, this YFA will provide high-impact funding to elite researchers early in their careers to develop innovative new research directions in the context of enabling transformative DoD capabilities. The long-term goal of the program is to develop the next generation of scientists and engineers in the research community who will focus a significant portion of their future careers on DoD and National Security issues. DARPA is particularly interested in identifying outstanding researchers who have previously not been performers on DARPA programs, but the program is open to all qualified applicants with innovative research ideas.  Final proposals are due by December 4, 2017.  Get more information here.

President to Nominate Walter Copan as Next NIST Director -- Walter Copan of Colorado is to be nominated by the President to be Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Director of the National Institute for Standards and Technology, according to a September 12th announcement from the White House. Dr. Copan is President and CEO of IP Engineering Group Corporation and Board member of Rocky Mountain Innovation Partners, supporting Federal labs, academic institutions, and entrepreneurial businesses. He was Managing Director—Technology Commercialization and Partnerships at Brookhaven National Laboratory, and Technology Transfer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Among his entrepreneurial ventures was Clean Diesel Technologies, Inc. (CDTi) which he led as CTO and Executive VP onto NASDAQ. During his 28 years with Lubrizol Corporation, he held top leadership positions including research, development, and business unit management. Dr. Copan earned dual undergraduate degrees, and a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Case Western Reserve University. He has served as board member and advisor to many organizations, including the Federal Laboratory Consortium.  Mr. Copan’s nomination will be considered by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Senator Pete Domenici Dead at 85 – Senator Pete Domenici from New Mexico has died according to his son’s law firm.  The Senator was, among other things, an incredibly strong advocate for scientific research and STEM education.  As Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and his positions on the Senate Appropriations Committee positioned him to successfully protect and strengthen the Nation’s investment in science and technology.  For more information on the Senator’s career and accomplishments read the story in Roll Call available here.

Business R&D in the U.S. Reaches $356 Billion in 2015 – According to a new report from the National Science Foundation, businesses spent $356 billion on research and development (R&D) performed in the United States in 2015, a 4.4 percent increase over the $341 billion spent in 2014. Of the total R&D expenditures in 2015, companies spent $22 billion (6 percent) on basic research, $56 billion (16 percent) on applied research, and $278 billion (78 percent) on development. The spending shares did not change from 2014. Those data points come from the Business R&D and Innovation Survey (BRDIS), developed and cosponsored by the National Science Foundation's (NSF) National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau. Funding from companies' own sources was $297 billion in 2015, a 5 percent increase from the $283 billion spent in 2014. Funding from other sources was $59 billion in 2015 and $58 billion in 2014. In 2015, companies in manufacturing industries performed 66 percent of domestic R&D. Most of the funding (83 percent) was from the companies' own funds. Companies in nonmanufacturing industries performed 34 percent of total domestic R&D, 84 percent of which was paid from the companies' own funds.  A copy of the report is available here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

White House and Congressional Leadership Agree to Pass Disaster Relief, 3 Month CR, and Raise the Debt Ceiling – This week the President met with the leadership of the House and Senate and agreed to pass a bill that would provide some $8 billion in disaster relief related to Hurricane Harvey.  To that emergency supplemental appropriations bill, the Senate will add in a three-month continuing resolution to keep the government operating until early December.  Press reports also indicate an extension of the debt ceiling will also be included.  Should all of this come to pass, we will avoid the drama of a government shutdown and/or a U.S. Government default on its obligations.  Under the continuing resolution programs will operate at a level very close to the current (FY 2017) level through the first part of December.  Congress will have to enact additional legislation in December to keep the government operating as well as once again adjust the debt ceiling.

Administration “Concerned” About “Increases” to NSF in H.R. 3354 – On September 5 the Administration issued a formal Statement of Administration Position (SAP) for the FY 2018 omnibus (the so-called Octobus) appropriations bill that includes funding for NOAA, NASA, NSF, NIH, the Department of Education, Department of Transportation, and many other non-defense agencies and programs.  The SAP says that if this bill was presented to the President in its current form, his advisors would recommend that he sign the bill into law.  However, as the SAP discusses various components of this mega-appropriations bill, with respect to the funding included for the National Science Foundation, the SAP says,

The Administration is concerned that the bill provides $7.3 billion for NSF, which is $687 million above the FY 2018 Budget request. The [Administration’s] request focuses funding on NSF’s core research programs and undoes some of the large increases to programs that occurred during the previous administration. 

The funding included in this appropriations bill funds NSF at a level nearly identical to the FY 2017 level rather than the Administration’s plan to reduce NSF by over 10%. Elsewhere in the SAP, the Administration notes its appreciation for the House’s support for NASA Science, is critical that the bill only provides NOAA with $50 million instead of the $180 million requested for NOAA’s Polar Follow On weather satellite, and on the House recommendation to dismiss the Administration’s proposed 20% cut to NIH and replace it with a $1.1 billion increase over FY 2017, the Administration is only critical of Congressional language that prohibits changes to the method NIH uses to pay for administrative and facilities costs.  

Prospects for this bill moving in the Senate, in its current form, are not promising.

Administration Nominates new NASA Administrator and NOAA Deputy Administrator – On September 5 the Administration nominated Rep. James Bridenstine (R-OK) to be the next NASA Administrator.  At the same time, the Administration nominated Rear Admiral Tim Gallaudet to be the next Deputy Administrator for NOAA.  The Administration is expected to announce its nominee to be the NOAA Administrator within the coming days.

Mr. Bridenstine was elected in 2012 to represent Oklahoma’s First Congressional District. He serves on the House Armed Services Committee and the Science, Space and Technology Committee. Mr. Bridenstine began his Naval aviation career flying the E-2C Hawkeye off the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier. It was there that he flew combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. While on active duty, he transitioned to the F-18 Hornet and flew as an “aggressor” at the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center. After leaving active duty, Mr. Bridenstine returned to Tulsa, Oklahoma to be the Executive Director of the Tulsa Air and Space Museum & Planetarium and flew counter-drug missions in Central and South America in the Navy Reserve. He holds a triple major from Rice University and an M.B.A. from Cornell University. Mr. Bridenstine is currently a member of the 137th Special Operations Wing of the Oklahoma Air National Guard.

Dr. Gallaudet was, until his recent retirement, a Rear Admiral in the U.S. Navy whose most recent assignment was Oceanographer of the Navy and Commander of the Navy Meteorology and Oceanography Command. During his 32 years of service, Dr. Gallaudet has had experience in weather and ocean forecasting, hydrographic surveying, developing policy and plans to counter illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing, and assessing the national security impacts of climate change. Dr. Gallaudet has led teams of Navy Sailors and civilians performing such diverse functions as overseeing aircraft carrier combat operations, planning and conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster response efforts, assisting Navy SEAL Teams during high visibility counter-terrorism operations, and developing the Navy's annual $52 billion information technology, cyber security, and intelligence budget. Dr. Gallaudet holds a bachelor's degree from the U.S. Naval Academy and master’s and doctoral degrees from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, all in oceanography.

Funding Opportunities in the DOD The Department of Defense’s Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) – SERDP will be releasing three solicitations in the coming months for environmental research and development proposals. Projects will be selected through a competitive process.  A Supplemental FY 2018 Solicitation will be released on or about September 14, 2017. Proposals related to the SERDP program areas of Environmental Restoration, Resource Conservation and Resiliency, and Weapons Systems and Platforms will be requested.  Proposals submitting to this solicitation will be limited to no more than $200,000 and projects of approximately one year in duration. Proposals will be due October 19, 2017 by 2:00 p.m. ET.  The FY 2019 Core Solicitation will be released on or about October 26, 2017.  This solicitation will provide funding opportunities for basic and applied research and advanced technology development. Core projects vary in cost and duration consistent with the scope of the work proposed. The Statements of Need (SON) referenced by this solicitation will request pre-proposals related to the SERDP program areas of Environmental Restoration, Munitions Response, Resource Conservation and Resiliency, and Weapons Systems and Platforms. All Core pre-proposals will be due January 4, 2018 by 2:00 p.m. ET.  The FY 2019 SERDP Exploratory Development (SEED) Solicitation will also be released on or about October 26, 2017.  This solicitation will provide funding opportunities for work that will investigate innovative environmental approaches that entail high technical risk or require supporting data to provide proof of concept. Funding is limited to not more than $200,000 and projects are approximately one year in duration. SEED proposals will be due March 6, 2018 by 2:00 p.m. ET.  Details on each of these solicitations will be available on the SERDP website under Funding Opportunities as soon as the solicitations have been released.

Senate Commerce Committee to Hold Hearing on Reauthorization of Magnuson Stevens Act -- U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), chairman of the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, will convene the third in a series of hearings related to the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.  The hearing will begin at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 12, 2017 and will focus on the perspectives of commercial, charter, and recreational fishermen on the state of our nation’s fishery laws.  The hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available here

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Senate Appropriations Committee Reports Out FY18 Funding Recommendations for NSF, NOAA and NASA — On July 27, 2018, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the FY 2018 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill with a total of $56.4 billion to support national security, law enforcement, and American scientific innovation.  The FY2018 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, which is $3.2 billion below the FY2017 enacted level and $4.4 billion above the budget request, funds the U.S. Departments of Commerce (including NOAA) and Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, and other agencies. 

The Committee’s report says, “For the science agencies, the administration proposes a reduction of 3 percent below the fiscal year 2017 spending level to NASA, and 11 percent to NSF.  This budget request attempts to navigate a challenging fiscal environment, but the deep cuts to these science agencies would dramatically curtail ongoing missions and research, for NASA, delay future exploration for years to come.  While leveraging some strategic reductions, this bill makes it possible for NASA and NSF to achieve balanced and cost-effective operations.  NASA in particular will have sufficient financial resources to achieve its management plans and launch schedules for the agency’s science and exploration missions, many of which will reach critical states of development during fiscal year 2018.”

National Science Foundation (NSF) – $7.3 billion for NSF, $161 million below the FY2017 enacted level and $658 million above the request.  Funding is provided for basic research across all scientific and engineering disciplines.  NSF Research is funded at $5.9 billion, down $116 million from FY 2017 but $556 million above the request. Within the MREFC account, $105 million is provided for the design and construction of three Regional Class Research Vessels (RCRV).  For the NSF EPSCOR program, $160 million is provided which is the same as the FY2017 enacted level and $60 million above the request.

As in the past, the Committee encourages NSF to fully fund its U.S. scientific research facilities and instruments to adequately support scientists and students engaged in sustained cutting edge research.  The Committee expressed its support for NSF funding for Mathematical Sciences Institutes; the VORTEX-SE tornado research program in conjunction with NOAA; research on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet; high performance computing; advanced manufacturing; cybersecurity; fire research; sustainable chemistry research; and the Innovation Corps program.

NSF Education and Human Resources is funded at $862.4 million.  This is $102 million more than the request but $18 million below the FY 2017 enacted level.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – $5.6 billion for NOAA, an $85.1 million decrease below the FY2017 enacted level, for core NOAA operations including: ocean monitoring; fisheries management; coastal grants to states; aquaculture research; and severe weather forecasting.  The bill provides full funding for NOAA’s weather satellites, and their planned successors, which are critical for accurate weather warnings to save lives and protect property.  Funding for NOAA continues to target new areas of investment for fisheries management, including new monitoring technologies and support for state-led management schemes to ensure greater access to the nation’s abundant fishery resources.

The Senate bill provides $419 million to continue construction of two new polar ‘follow-on’ satellites, an increase of $90 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $239 million above the President’s request.  The bill provides $1.3 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) legacy JPSS and GOES weather satellites.

The Senate bill rejects the administration’s request to reduce funding for climate, weather, and oceans research by 32 percent, and instead funds NOAA research at the fiscal year 2017 level of $478 million.  The bill rejects the proposal to eliminate successful NOAA programs like Sea Grant, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS), Coastal Zone Management (CZM) grants, and the Regional Coastal Resilience Grant (RCRG) program.  

The Committee rejected the Administration’s proposal to terminate the Sea Grant program. Instead, the Committee funded the Sea Grant program at a total of $76.5 million of which $65 million is for the Sea Grant base program and $11.5 million is for Sea Grant aquaculture. There is report language that Sea Grant should continue to support research and develop alternative approaches to data collection and analyses at up to the FY 2017 level.  There is also language to encourage Sea Grant support for American Lobster Research, language on the importance of managing the Sea Grant Fellowship program in a bipartisan manner, and language regarding supporting the current funding model that ensures annual base funding of no less than $1 million per year or $4 million over four years is maintained for each Sea Grant program with Institutional or College Program status.

Within the National Ocean Service (NOS), the Committee is recommending a total of $533.2 million for NOS operations compared to a FY18 budget request of $414.8 million.  Within NOS, $217.6 million is provided as the total for the Navigation, Observations and Positioning program which is $20 million more than the budget request.  Within the subprogram (also called) Navigation, Observations and Positioning which provides support for coastal mapping, the Committee is recommending $154 million or $14 million more than the request. The Integrated Ocean Observing System program is funded at $33.7 million which is an increase of $4.3 million over the request.  NERRS is funded at $26.9 million, which includes $1.9 million for NERRS construction.  National Marine Sanctuaries receives $51 million for program activities and $2 million for construction and acquisition.  CZM grants and resilience grants are funded at their respective fiscal year 2017 funding levels of $70 million and $15 million, and will support coastal and Great Lakes communities across the country.  An additional $500K was also provided for the Marine Debris program.

Within the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Prescott program is not terminated but instead funded at the FY 2017 level.  NMFS support for red snapper stock assessment is funded at the same level provided in FY 2017 -- $5 million.  The Committee directs NOAA to maintain its support for Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing at no less than the FY 2017 level. The Committee expressed its support for NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement and its efforts to combat IUU fishing.  The Bycatch program is maintained at its FY 2017 level while the NMFS Aquaculture program is funded at $15 million.  In FY 2017 aquaculture was funded at $6.3 million in NMFS.

For the Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) operations, the Committee is recommending $477.7 million which is $157 million more than the budget request and $17 million over the FY 2017 estimate.  A total of $158 million is provided for climate research -- $30 million more than the request or the House’s recommendation.  Within the $158 million for climate research: $60 million is to support climate laboratories and cooperative institutes; $38 million for Regional Climate Data and Information; and $60 million for Climate Competitive Research.  Arctic research, which had been proposed for elimination is funded at no less than the FY 2017 level.  The Airborne Phased Array Radar (APAR) within the U.S. Weather Research Program is funded at no less than $2.6 million.  

For the National Weather Service, the Committee is recommending a total of $987.5 million for operations.  The Administration’s request was for $936.1 million and in FY 2017, NWS operations were funded at an estimated $986 million.  The Committee provided about $9 million more in FY18 for observations than they did in FY 2017.  The National Mesonet program is funded at $19 million rather than terminated as proposed by the Administration.  The Committee provides no less than the FY 2017 level for mid-range weather outlooks, including seasonal to sub-seasonal forecasting and Investments in Numerical Weather Prediction Modeling.  The National Water Center (NWC) is maintained at the FY 2017 level.  

The Senate Committee bill rejects the proposal to terminate NOAA education programs and instead funds the Office of Education at $27 million – a level close to the FY 2017 program. Within the funding provided, $14.5 million is for the Educational Partnership Program with minority-serving institutions, $5 million is for Environmental Literacy grants, and $7.5 million is for Bay-Watershed Education and Training regional programs.

The Senate bill provides $75 million to begin building a new NOAA survey vessel.  NOAA currently has 16 ships in its aging fleet, but that number will dwindle to 8 vessels by 2028.  The Committee recently funded one additional vessel, but to maintain its current oceanographic capacity, NOAA needs to build not one but eight additional vessels in the next several years, as construction takes eight to ten years per ship.  These vessels enable NOAA to map the ocean floor, support weather forecasts, conduct oceanographic and climate research, and improve ecosystem and fisheries management. 

The Senate bill also includes $6.1 million for COSMIC-2 radio occultation satellite project and $2 million for a commercial weather data pilot program.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – $19.5 billion for NASA, $124 million below the FY2017 enacted level and $437 million above the budget request, to support the human and robotic exploration of space, fund science missions that enhance the understanding of the Earth, the solar system, and the universe, and support fundamental aeronautics research. The bill rejects the proposed elimination of NASA education programs.  It supports key priorities in Earth Science and satellite servicing.  Specifically, the bill includes:

• $2.15 billion for the Space Launch System (SLS), which is $212 million above the request.  The funding continues the development schedule for SLS, and provides $300 million in critical funding for upper stage engine work for future crewed missions.

• $1.3 billion for the Orion crewed spacecraft, $164 million above the request, to continue development of NASA’s next deep-space crewed capsule.

• $5.6 billion for Science, $193 million below the FY2017 enacted level and $140 million below the request.  Within Science, the Committee provides $1.9 billion for Earth Science and $1.6 billion for Planetary Science.  In response to the NAS Decadal Survey, the Committee is providing $10 million for establishing a space weather research program within NASA.

• $732 million, the same as the request, to further develop a domestic crew launch capability.

• $700 million for Space Technology, $14 million above the FY2017 enacted level and $21 million above the request.  Funding is included to advance projects in early stages of development that are expected to eventually demonstrate capabilities needed for future space exploration.

• $100 million is provided for the Education programs proposed to be eliminated in the budget request.  NASA EPSCoR is funded at $18 million, Space Grant is funded at $40 million, the Minority University Research and Education Project is funded at $32 million, and STEM Education and Accountability projects is funded at $10 million.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Senate Appropriations Committee Approves FY 2018 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill -- The Senate Appropriations Committee marked up and reported out an energy and water bill on July 20th that differs from the priorities of House lawmakers and President Trump.  Approved by a 30-1 vote, the $38.4 billion measure would provide record levels of funding for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, which the Administration and the House Appropriations Committee would eliminate.  The measure would provide ARPA-E a record budget of $330 million, and increase of $24 million over the FY 2017 level.  The bill would provide record levels for DOE's Office of Science ($5.55 billion) and provide higher funding for applied energy programs than called for by the administration.  

Within the Office of Science, the Senate bill recommends $2 billion for basic energy sciences compared to the $1.55 billion requested by the President.  Within Biological and Environmental Research (BER) $633 million is provided including report language the encourages DOE to increase funding for academia to perform climate model studies that include the collection and evaluation of atmospheric data sets from satellite observations.

DOE's energy efficiency and renewable energy programs — which the Administration sought to reduce by 70 percent — would receive $1.9 billion, lower than the $2.1 billion provided last year but far above the $636 million called for in the President's proposal.  The manager's amendment, which passed via a voice vote, includes an amendment from Senators Alexander and Feinstein to expend appropriated funds for critical research on environmental science. An amendment from Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) calls on DOE to utilize investments through existing "regional capabilities" such as universities.  

Funding for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers national coastal mapping program was funded at $6.3 million which is equal to the Administration’s request and the House’s recommendation.  Finally, the Senate bill notably differs from its House counterpart in that it does not include a provision to exempt the Administration's repeal of the Clean Water Rule from the Administrative Procedure Act.

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce-Justice-Science Scheduled to Mark Up – On Tuesday July 25th the Senate Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee is scheduled to mark up its version of the FY18 CJS Appropriations bill.  This bill contains funding for NSF, NOAA, NASA, OSTP, and NIST.  It is worth noting the Senate CJS Subcommittee is working with an allocation of $53.4 billion, which is $500 million below the House allocation for this same bill and $3.2 billion below the FY 2017 level for this subcommittee. The decrease in the Senate CJS allocation is justified by maintaining disbursements from the Crime Victims Fund at the three-year average. Overall, the full Senate Appropriations Committee is working with a total full allocation of $1.07 trillion ($551 billion for defense and $518 billion for non-defense – the same levels enacted for FY 2017).  The total allocation the Committee is using is about $5 billion more than the current statutorily set spending caps – meaning the Committee is advocating for the Congress to enact legislation at some point to raise the FY18 spending cap to something closer to the FY17 level.  
 

A Periodic Federal Science Update

House Appropriations Committee Marks Up FY2018 Commerce-Justice-Science Bill – On July 13th the full House Appropriations Committee marked up and reported out the FY 2018 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) Appropriations bill.  The CJS Appropriations Subcommittee marked up this bill back on June 28th.  This bill funds the Department of Commerce – including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA; the Department of Justice and the FBI; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); the National Science Foundation (NSF); and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

The bill totals $54 billion, a $2.6 billion reduction from the FY 2017 and $4.8 billion above the President’s request for the agencies and programs in this bill.  The bill targets funding increases for national security – including cybercrime, counter-terrorism and espionage; federal law enforcement; help boost trade enforcement; continue investments in space exploration programs; and advance science and technologies essential for innovation, productivity, and economic growth. In order to make these investments, the Subcommittee reduced or eliminated a number of “lower-priority programs”. 

For NSF, the bill provides $7.3 billion, which is $133 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. Research and Related Activities are funded at the current level of $6 billion and rejects the Administration’s proposal to reduce NSF research by nearly $700 million. The funding is targeted to foster innovation and U.S. economic competitiveness, including funding for research on advanced manufacturing, physics, mathematics, cybersecurity, neuroscience, and STEM education.  The Committee directs NSF to allocate no less than fiscal year 2017 levels to support its existing research laboratories, observational networks, the astronomy centers, the current academic fleet including global class vessels with unique seismic capabilities, FFRDCs and the national high performance computing centers so they may provide the support needed for cutting edge research. NSF is encouraged to expand support for the National Deep Submergence Facility's remotely-operated vehicle operations for open sourced telepresence discovery based research and education expeditions.

The Committee includes language calling out the importance of neuroscience research, fire research, the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, astronomy assets, the International Ocean Discovery Program, and marine seismic research.  The Committee has eliminated funding for NSF’s proposed Regional Class Research Vessels (RCRVs) contained in the NSF’s Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) account.  The Committee fully funds the Antarctic Infrastructure Modernization for Science Program, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, and the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope.  The leadership of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership weighed in with the House Appropriations Subcommittee is support of both the RCRVs and marine seismology infrastructure.  A copy of the COL letter is available here 

During the full committee mark up, Rep. David Price offered, and then withdrew, an amendment to increase NSF’s research account above the Committee’s mark.  Chairman Culberson, in response to Rep. Price’s proposal, said that he hoped to revisit NSF funding and address support for the RCRVs as appropriations process moves forward.

The Committee includes language encouraging the National Science Board to consider policy changes that would bridge the gap between the Major Research Instrumentation program and the MREFC account projects while also developing processes appropriate for mid-scale infrastructure, cyberinfrastructure, and instrument upgrades to be funded through the MREFC account.  The Board, in collaboration with the National Academies is directed to examine these issues and provide a report to the Committee within 180 days after enactment of this appropriations bill.

For NOAA, the bill provides $4.97 billion, which is $710 million below the enacted level but nearly $200 million more than the Administration’s request.  Funding is targeted to the National Weather Service, fisheries management, weather research, and ocean exploration while reducing funds for “lower priority” activities.  The Committee includes language encouraging NOAA to collaborate, via extramural research, with academia and the private sector while also encouraging NOAA, to the extent possible and practicable, purchase services from the private sector when such services are cost effective, reliable, and available.  Within the funds provided to NOAA for aquaculture, up to $5 million is available for shellfish survival research to be conducted with research institutes across the U.S.

The Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR), instead of being cut by 32% as proposed by the Administration, the Committee limited the OAR reduction to 6% by providing a total of $448.8 million for OAR operations and research.  The Sea Grant program, slated for elimination under the Administration’s budget request is sustained in the House bill at a total of $70 million with $63 million for the Sea Grant base program and $7 million for Sea Grant aquaculture initiative. 

The Joint Technology Transfer Initiative grows to $20 million.  The Committee rejected the Administration’s proposal to terminate the VORTEX-SE serve storms research program as well as the proposal to terminate the Autonomous Underwater Vehicles testbed program and tornadoes in the southeast of the U.S.  Climate research is reduced by 19% or $30 million with most of the reduction coming from the climate competitive research program.

The National Estuarine Research Reserve System, also slated for elimination, was funded at the FY 2017 of $23.5 million.  Coastal Zone Management grants, instead of being zeroed out as proposed by the Administration, the Committee is providing $45 million, down $40 million from the $85 million provided in FY 2017. 

Navigation, Observations and Positioning is funded at $145.5 million with report language directing NOAA to prioritize its mission-critical responsibilities including mapping and charting.  The Integrated Ocean Observation System program is funded at $31 million, a level similar to FY 2017. 

Within the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) $10 million is provided to continue Gulf of Mexico red snapper stock assessment research.  The Prescott marine mammal stranding program will continue in contrast to the Administration’s proposal to terminate the program. The Committee encourages NOAA to make competitive awards for studies of highly migratory fish species in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.  The bill provides the request for implementation of the Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing program

The National Weather Service (NWS) operations is funded at $973 million which is very close to the FY 2017 level.  The Committee rejects the Administration’s proposal to terminate Tsunami warning centers and the Mesonet program.  The Committee also rejected the Administration’s proposal to reduce support for mid-range weather outlooks and numerical weather prediction.

Instead of elimination as proposed by the Administration, NOAA education programs are funded at a total of $19.1 million which is a 29% reduction from the FY 2017 level.

Within the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) support is provided for the Space Weather Follow On program, the purchase of commercial satellite weather data, and $6.1 million for COSMIC 2 microsatellite program.  The bill also includes full funding to continue the current Joint Polar Satellite System weather satellite program and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite program to help improve weather.

For NASA, the bill provides $19.9 billion, $219 million above the 2017 enacted level. This funding includes: $4.6 billion for Exploration – $226 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This includes funding to continue the development of the Orion crew vehicle and Space Launch System and related ground systems; and $5.9 billion for NASA Science programs – $94 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This targets funding to planetary science (up 15%) and astrophysics (10%), while reducing funding for earth sciences research by 11.3%.

House Appropriations Subcommittee Marks Up FY 2018 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Bill — On July 13th the House Appropriations Subcommittee that funds NIH, the Department of Education, the Center for Disease Control, and other domestic agencies, marked their version of an FY 2018 appropriations bill.  The bill includes $156 billion in discretionary funding, a reduction of $5 billion below the FY 2017 level.  The bill emphasizes investments in medical research, public health, biodefense activities, and fundamental education programs.  The bill allocates a significant funding increase of $1.1 billion for the National Institutes of Health bringing the proposed budget up to $35.2 billion instead of the 18% reduction proposed by the Administration.  The bill provides strong support for several specific research initiatives including:  $1.8 billion, a $400 million increase, for Alzheimer’s research; $336 million, a $76 million increase for the BRAIN initiative; and $400 million, a $80 million increase, for then All of Us research initiative (formerly called the Precision Medicine Initiative and $300 million for the Cancer Moonshot research program.  The bill also includes increases for special education funding; TRIO, GEAR UP, and early childhood education programs.  The subcommittee’s recommendations also push back on and does not include the Administration’s proposal to cap indirect cost rates on NIH grants.

OMB Provides Guidance to Agencies for FY 2019 Budget Development – On July 7th, the Office of Management and Budget released a memorandum sent to all agencies providing guidance on the development of the FY 2019 budget – a budget proposal due to OMB by September 11, 2017.  OMB directs agencies to draft FY 2019 budgets that “should reflect a level no higher than the net total provided…in the FY 2019 column of the FY 2018 Budget.” It is worth noting that in the details of the Administration’s FY 2018 budget, an out year table (Table S-7, Proposed Discretionary Spending Caps for 2018 Budget, p.40) for discretionary spending (divided between Defense and Non-defense) was included.  For FY 2019, OMB is proposing to reduce Non-defense Discretionary spending by an additional $16 billion, on top of the proposed $54 billion reduction proposed for FY 2018. 

OMB does invite the agencies “…to identify additional investments in effective programs that further support their mission and fill a clear Federal role.”  These additional investments should be no more than a 5% increase over the “submission level” for FY 2019.  In this guidance document, OMB also advises the agencies to submit Agency Reform Plans drawn from the reorganization guidance issued by Executive Order 13781, when they submit their FY 2019 budget plans.  OMB emphasizes “…the FY 2019 budget process will give special consideration to bold reform or reorganization proposals that have the potential to dramatically improve effectiveness and efficiency of government operations…”

House Appropriations Subcommittee Marks Up and Reports Out the FY 2018 Interior/Environment Appropriations Act – The House Appropriations Committee has released a summary of the fiscal year 2018 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill, which was marked up in Subcommittee on July 12th.  The legislation includes funding for the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Forest Service, the Indian Health Service, and various independent and related agencies.  In total, the bill provides $31.4 billion, $824 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $4.3 billion above the President’s budget request. These funds are targeted to investments in the nation’s natural resources, including $3.4 billion for the Department of the Interior and U.S. Forest Service to prevent and combat wildfires. The legislation also contains several policy provisions targeted at EPA regulations.  The bill funds the EPA at $7.5 billion, a reduction of $528 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $1.9 billion above the Administration’s request.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is funded at $1.5 billion in the bill, a $38 million decrease below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. Core responsibilities and grant programs are level funded. The legislation prioritizes funding to reduce the endangered species delisting backlog and refuge maintenance backlog, to fight invasive species, to prevent illegal wildlife trafficking, and to prevent the closure of fish hatcheries.

The bill also continues a one-year delay on any further Endangered Species Act status reviews, determinations, and rule makings for greater sage-grouse. 

For the U.S.  Geological Survey (USGS) the bill includes $1 billion, $46 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. Funding is targeted to programs dealing with natural hazards, stream gages, the groundwater monitoring network, and mapping activities. The bill includes $10.2 million for an earthquake early warning system to help save lives during natural disasters, and provides the $8.3 million increase necessary for support of “Landsat 9” – a satellite program that provides land use measurements that are important to local communities for agriculture, forestry, energy and water resource decisions. 

The Smithsonian Institution is funded at $885 million in the bill, $22 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. For the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, the bill includes $145 million for each of the endowments, $5 million below the fiscal year 2017 level for each endowment.

House Appropriations Subcommittee Marks up and Reports Out the FY 2018 Transportation Appropriations Act – The House Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee marked up the FY 2018 Transportation-Housing Appropriations bill on July 11th.  The legislation includes funding for the Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and other related agencies.  In total, the bill reflects an allocation of $56.5 billion in discretionary spending – $1.1 billion below fiscal year 2017 and $8.6 billion above the request. This funding is targeted to essential investments in transportation infrastructure investments, as well as fundamental community development and housing programs.

The bill includes $17.8 billion in discretionary appropriations for the Department of Transportation for fiscal year 2018. This is $646 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $1.5 billion above the President’s request. In total budgetary resources, including offsetting collections, the bill provides $76.7 billion to improve and maintain the nation’s transportation infrastructure.  The bill targets funding to programs and projects that will increase efficiency, safety, reliability, and quality of life for the traveling public, and that will help improve commerce and economic growth.

Included in the legislation is $16.6 billion in total budgetary resources for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) – $153 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $435 million above the request. This will provide full funding for all air traffic control personnel, including 14,500 air traffic controllers, 7,400 safety inspectors, and operational support personnel. The bill also builds on several years of increased funding by providing over $1 billion for the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation Systems (NextGen), and funds Contract Towers at $162 million. These investments are designed to help ease future congestion and help reduce delays for travelers in U.S. airspace. In addition, the bill does not include new passenger facility and general aviation fees.

The bill allows $45 billion from the Highway Trust Fund to be spent on the Federal­-aid Highways Program, which is $968 million above the fiscal year 2017 level. This funding mirrors the authorized levels and will provide much needed growth and improvements within America’s highway system. The legislation includes $490.6 million for the Maritime Administration, $31.9 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This funding level will continue to increase the productivity, efficiency, and safety of the nation’s ports and intermodal water and land transportation. The Maritime Security Program is funded at the full authorized level of $300 million.

The legislation contains funding for the various transportation safety programs and agencies within the Department of Transportation. This includes $927 million in total budgetary resources for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – an increase of $15 million over the fiscal year 2017 enacted level – and $758 million is included for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, $113.6 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. Also included is $268 million for the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, an increase of $3.7 million over the fiscal year 2017 enacted level.

The legislation eliminates National Infrastructure Investment grants (also known as TIGER grants), which were funded at $500 million in fiscal year 2017.

House Appropriations Committee Marks Up and Reports Out the FY 2018 Energy and Water Appropriations bill – On July 12th, the full House Appropriations Committee marked up and reported out the FY 2018 Energy and Water Appropriations bill.  The bill totals $37.6 billion which is $209 million below the FY 2017 level and $3.65 billion above the President’s budget request.  This bill contains funding for key DOE research programs.  Funding for energy programs within DOE is $9.6 billion – a decrease of $1.7 billion below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $2.3 billion above the President's request. Within this total, the bill prioritizes early-stage research and development funding for the applied energy programs. Funding is targeted to encourage U.S. economic competitiveness and help advance the nation’s goal of an “all-of-the-above” solution to energy independence.

Research and development to advance coal, natural gas, oil, and other fossil energy technologies are funded at $635 million – a decrease of $33 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $355 million above the budget request. In addition, to promote innovation and growth in nuclear energy, research, development, and demonstration activities are funded at $969 million – $48 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $266 million above the request.

Renewable energy programs (Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy) are cut by $986 million compared to fiscal year 2017 and increased by $468 million compared to the President’s budget request to a level of $1.1 billion. While the bill includes the President’s proposal to eliminate the APRA-E research program, at the same time it includes $5.4 billion for science research – the same as the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This funding supports basic energy research, the development of high-performance computing systems, and research into the next generation of energy sources.  Within the Office of Science, the Biological and Environmental Research program is funded at $582 million, a reduction of $30 million from the FY 2017 level.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) Operation and Maintenance program is funded at $3.5 billion, $370 million more than the FY 2017 level.  The O&M program includes the National Coastal Mapping Program which is funded at $6.3 million, an amount equal to the budget request and the FY 2017 level.

House Appropriations Committee Releases FY 2018 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill – The Department of Homeland Security Appropriation Bill for FY 2018 was marked up in Subcommittee on July 12th.  This bill includes $1.6 billion for physical barrier construction along the U.S. southern border.  For the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the bill provides $6.8 billion for disaster relief and emergency response activities.  To respond to both natural and man-made disasters, the bill funds FEMA's disaster relief account (DRF) at $7.3 billion.  The legislation also includes $2.7 billion for FEMA grant programs. This includes: $467 million for the State Homeland Security Grant Program; $630 million for the Urban Area Security Initiative, including an increase of $25 million for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program; $690 million for firefighter assistance grants; and $350 million for Emergency Management Performance Grants.

President Announces Intent to Nominate Paul Dabbar to be DOE Undersecretary for Science– On July 11th the President announced his intent to nominate Paul Dabbar to the post of Undersecretary for Science at the Department of Energy.  Mr. Dabbar is Managing Director for Mergers & Acquisitions for J.P. Morgan, and has over $400 billion in investment experience across many energy sectors including solar, wind, geothermal, distributed-generation, utility, LNG, pipeline, oil & gas, trading, energy technology, and has also led the majority of all nuclear transactions.  Before joining J.P. Morgan, Mr. Dabbar served as a nuclear submarine officer in Mare Island, California, and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, including deploying to the North Pole where he conducted environmental research.  He also currently serves on the Department of Energy Environmental Management Advisory Board.  He has been a lecturer at the U.S. Naval Academy Economics Department, and conducted research at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory.  Mr. Dabbar received a B.S. degree from the U.S. Naval Academy, and an M.B.A. degree from Columbia University.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

FY 2018 Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations — On June 29, 2017 the House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee marked up and reported out their FY 2018 appropriations bill.  The bill funds the Department of Commerce – including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA; the Department of Justice and the FBI; the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); the National Science Foundation (NSF); and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).  At this time, only a brief summary of the bill is available.  More details will be released once the bill moves to full Committee mark up in mid-July.

The bill totals $54 billion, a $2.6 billion reduction from the FY 2017 and $4.8 billion above the President’s request for the agencies and programs in this bill.  The bill targets funding increases for national security – including cybercrime, counter-terrorism and espionage; federal law enforcement; help boost trade enforcement; continue investments in space exploration programs; and advance science and technologies essential for innovation, productivity, and economic growth. In order to make these investments, the Subcommittee reduced or eliminated a number of “lower-priority programs”.

For NOAA, the bill provides $4.97 billion, which is $710 million below the enacted level but nearly $200 million more than the Administration’s request.  Funding is targeted to the National Weather Service, fisheries management, weather research, and ocean exploration while reducing funds for “lower priority” activities.  It appears that the Sea Grant program, slated for elimination under the Administration’s budget request is sustained in the House bill at a level close to the FY 2017 level.  The bill also includes full funding to continue the current Joint Polar Satellite System weather satellite program and the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite program to help improve weather.

For NSF, the bill provides $7.3 billion, which is $133 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. Research and Related Activities are funded at the current level of $6 billion and rejects the Administration’s proposal to reduce NSF research by nearly $700 million. The funding is targeted to foster innovation and U.S. economic competitiveness, including funding for research on advanced manufacturing, physics, mathematics, cybersecurity, neuroscience, and STEM education.  The reduction of $133 million appears to eliminate the 3 Regional Class Research Vessels (RCRVs) contained in the NSF’s Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) account.

For NASA, the bill provides $19.9 billion, $219 million above the 2017 enacted level. This funding includes: $4.6 billion for Exploration – $226 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This includes funding to continue the development of the Orion crew vehicle and Space Launch System and related ground systems; and $5.9 billion for NASA Science programs – $94 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This targets funding to planetary science and astrophysics, while reducing funding for lower-priority research.

FY 2018 Energy and Water Appropriations — On June 28, the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee marked up their recommendations for their FY 2018 Appropriations bill.  This bill contains funding for key DOE research programs.  Funding for energy programs within DOE is $9.6 billion – a decrease of $1.7 billion below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $2.3 billion above the President's request. Within this total, the bill prioritizes early-stage research and development funding for the applied energy programs. Funding is targeted to encourage U.S. economic competitiveness and help advance the nation’s goal of an “all-of-the-above” solution to energy independence.  Research and development to advance coal, natural gas, oil, and other fossil energy technologies are funded at $635 million – a decrease of $33 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $355 million above the budget request. In addition, to promote innovation and growth in nuclear energy, research, development, and demonstration activities are funded at $969 million – $48 million below the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $266 million above the request.

Renewable energy programs are cut by $986 million compared to fiscal year 2017 and increased by $468 million compared to the President’s budget request. While the bill includes the President’s proposal to eliminate the APRA-E research program, at the same time it includes $5.4 billion for science research – the same as the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This funding supports basic energy research, the development of high-performance computing systems, and research into the next generation of energy sources.

Additional details on DOE funding will be available once the bill moves to full Committee in mid-July.

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Expresses Opposition to Administration’s Proposed 22% Reduction to NIH – On June 22, Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education on the FY 2018 NIH budget.  The Administration has proposed to reduce the NIH budget by 22% as well as cap indirect cost rates.  Neither of these proposals were met with support by the Republican and Democratic Senators present. Chairman Roy Blunt who has increased NIH funding by 13% over the past two years, assured the NIH Director that the Subcommittee will not be implementing the President’s FY 2018 proposals.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

NOAA Appoints New Assistant Administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) – Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, with concurrence from the White House, named Chris Oliver Assistant Administrator for NOAA Fisheries. Mr. Oliver assumed his new position on June 19, taking the helm from Acting Assistant Administrator Samuel Rauch who will return to his position as the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Programs.  As the agency’s new Assistant Administrator, Oliver will oversee the management and conservation of recreational and commercial fisheries including some aspects of marine aquaculture, the preservation and maintenance of safe sources of seafood, and the protection of marine mammals, marine protected species, and coastal fisheries habitat within the U.S. exclusive economic zone. He will also manage an agency with a strong presence nationally with 3,200 people in five regional offices, six science centers, and 24 labs and fish stations in 15 states and U.S. territories.

Mr. Oliver most recently served as Executive Director of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, a position he held for the past 16 years. He has been with the Council since 1990, also serving as a fisheries biologist and then deputy director. During his tenure as executive director he led the way on several management initiatives, including development of limited access privilege programs and fishery cooperatives and catch share programs, the North Pacific’s comprehensive onboard observer program, numerous bycatch reduction programs, extensive habitat protection measures, commercial and recreational allocation programs, and coastal community development programs. He was also responsible for all administrative and operational aspects of the Council process, and lead staff member for legislative and international issues.

House Science Subcommittee Urges NOAA to Consider Increasing Privatization – On June 21, the House Science Committee’s Subcommittee on the Environment held a hearing to highlight private sector advancement in various environmental technologies – including innovative monitoring, observing, and modelling technologies that support great understanding of the oceans and atmosphere.  Witnesses from the private sector, namely Dr. Neil Jacobs from Panasonic Avionics and Mr. Sebastien De Halleux from Salidrone, Inc., discussed various modelling and observing advancements made by their respective companies and how NOAA could take better advantage of the data and observing capabilities that could be provided by the private sector.  The Chairman of the Subcommittee, Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ), and some of his other Members expressed concern that NOAA has been reluctant to engage with the private sector on such issues.  Chairman Biggs referenced he recently enacted Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act as a key step in encouraging NOAA to maximize the strengths of the private sector in terms of data, observing capabilities, and modelling.  Subcommittee Democrats noted that federal spending often provided the foundation upon which the private sector builds its products and services in terms of weather forecasting. More information on this hearing, including a video archive of the hearing can be found here.

National Science Foundation’s Move to Alexandria, VA Begins -- The National Science Foundation (NSF) is moving its headquarters to Alexandria, Virginia.  Email addresses and phone numbers for NSF employees and NSF offices will not change. Due to the move of NSF's Data Center, NSF.gov, FastLane and Research.gov will be unavailable from Friday, June 30 at 8:00 PM until Tuesday, July 4 at 6:00 PM EDT. During this outage period, proposals cannot be submitted in FastLane, and project reports and cash requests cannot be submitted in Research.gov. However, previously saved information and uploaded documents in FastLane and Research.gov, including in-process proposals and reports, will be accessible after the Data Center moves. The physical move to NSF's new headquarters will be phased over a six-week period, beginning Thursday, August 24 through Sunday, October 1.

Administration Asks for Comments on National Marine Sanctuaries System – The Administration has published in the Federal Register a request for comments on the designations and expansions that have taken place via Executive Order since 2007.  The public is being asked to comment on specific criteria related to these expansions and designations including: an analysis of the acreage affected and an analysis of the budgetary impacts of the costs of managing each National Marine Sanctuary or Marine National Monument designation or expansion; an analysis of the adequacy of any required Federal, State and tribal consultations conducted before the designations or expansions; and the opportunity costs associated with potential energy and mineral exploration and production from the Outer Continental Shelf, in addition to any impacts on production in the adjacent region.  Following up on this request for comments, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on the marine sanctuaries system on June 27th at 10AM Eastern.  The hearing will be livestreamed here.

Food and Drug Administration Seeks Nominations to Public Advisory Committees – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is requesting nominations for voting members to serve on the Device Good Manufacturing Practice Advisory Committee and device panels of the Medical Devices Advisory Committee in the Center for Devices and Radiological Health.  Nominations received by August 22, 2017 will be given first consideration for membership on the committee and panels.  More information on this can be found here.

NOAA Seeks New Members for U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System Advisory Committee -- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is soliciting applications for membership on the United States Integrated Ocean Observing System Advisory Committee. The Committee provides advice to the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and to the Interagency Ocean Observation Committee on the planning, integrated design, operation, maintenance, enhancement, and expansion of the United States Integrated Ocean Observing System (U.S. IOOS).  U.S. IOOS promotes research to develop, test, and deploy innovations and improvements in coastal and ocean observation technologies and modeling systems, addresses regional and national needs for ocean information, gathers data on key coastal, ocean, and Great Lakes variables and ensures timely and sustained dissemination and availability of these data for societal benefits. U.S. IOOS benefits national safety, the economy, and the environment through support for national defense, marine commerce and forecasting, navigation safety, weather, climate, energy siting and production, economic development, ecosystem-based management of marine and coastal areas, conservation of ocean and coastal resources and public safety. For more information on submitting an application for membership is available here.

A Periodic Federal Science Upate

Norman Sharpless of North Carolina To Be Nominated by President Trump as Next Director of the National Cancer Institute at NIH – On June 9 the President Announced his intent to nominate Dr. Norman E. “Ned” Sharpless, MD, director of the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and a Wellcome Distinguished Professor in Cancer Research at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine to be the next Director of the NIH’s National Cancer Institute. Dr. Sharpless earned his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He completed his internal medicine residency at Massachusetts General Hospital and his hematology/oncology fellowship at Dana-Farber/Partners Cancer Care. A practicing oncologist caring for patients with leukemia, Dr. Sharpless also leads a research group studying the cell cycle and its role in cancer and aging. He has authored more than 150 original scientific papers, reviews and book chapters. He holds 10 patents that form the core intellectual property of two NC-based biotechnology startup companies. Dr. Sharpless is an elected member of the American Society of Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians. He serves on the Association of American Cancer Institutes’ board of directors, and on the National Institute of Aging’s National Advisory Council on Aging.

DARPA Releases Funding Announcement for High-Risk, High-Payoff Research Opportunities -- The mission of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Defense Sciences Office (DSO) is to identify and pursue high-risk, high-payoff research initiatives across a broad spectrum of science and engineering disciplines and to transform these initiatives into disruptive technologies for U.S. national security. In support of this mission, the DSO Office-wide BAA invites proposers to submit innovative basic or applied research concepts that explore Physical and Natural Systems, Human-Machine and Social Systems, and/or Math and Computational Systems through the lens of one or more of the following technical domains: Complexity Engineering, Science of Design, Noosphere, Fundamental Limits, and New Foundations. Proposals must investigate innovative approaches that enable revolutionary advances. DSO is explicitly not interested in approaches or technologies that primarily result in evolutionary improvements to the existing state of practice.  More information on this funding opportunity is here.

DHS Announces $35 Million Funding Opportunity for New Center of Excellence in Cross-Border Threat Screening and Supply Chain Defense -- The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) announced $35 million in funding opportunities for a new DHS Center of Excellence (COE) for Cross-Border Threat Screening and Supply Chain Defense (CBTS). Accredited United States colleges and universities may submit proposals as the Center lead or as an individual partner to work with the lead institution in support of the Center’s activities. These two related funding opportunities are posted here. The deadline for submitting proposals is August 4, 2017. DHS intends to fund this new COE for 10 years for a total of approximately $35 million through a cooperative agreement.

ARPA-E Announces $32 Million in Awards for Advanced Technologies -- The Department of Energy (DOE) announced this week up to $32 million in funding for 16 projects as part of two new Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) programs: ENergy-efficient Light-wave Integrated Technology Enabling Networks that Enhance Datacenters (ENLITENED) and Power Nitride Doping Innovation Offers Devices Enabling SWITCHES (PNDIODES).

ENergy-efficient Light-wave Integrated Technology Enabling Networks that Enhance Datacenters – $25 Million -- The growth of the internet has led to an increase in energy consumption by the Information Communications Technology sector, particularly by datacenters that store and process information in the “cloud.” Datacenters currently consume 2.5 percent of U.S. electricity – a figure that is projected to double in just eight years. Efforts to improve their energy efficiency will ultimately be limited by metal interconnects currently used to transmit information between the devices within a datacenter.  ENLITENED seeks to overcome these limitations by advancing high density, energy-efficient photonic interconnects and related novel network designs that take advantage of integrated photonics technologies. Because photonic interconnects do not rely on electrons flowing through metal to transmit information, instead relying on light, it is possible to transmit information with far greater speed and bandwidth using significantly less energy. If successful, ENLITENED projects could result in an overall doubling in datacenter energy efficiency.  Details on the nine ENLITENED projects can be found here.

PNDIODES: Power Nitride Doping Innovation Offers Devices Enabling SWITCHES – $6.9 Million -- Power electronics devices convert one form of electricity to another so that it can be used in a specific device. Most power electronics are silicon based, which becomes much less efficient as power demands increase due to the physical limitations of the material. Power converters based on wide-bandgap semiconductors such as gallium nitride (GaN) and its alloys offer improved efficiencies over silicon, particularly for higher voltage devices – while also dramatically reducing size and weight. However, fabrication of these specialized materials is difficult and expensive.  With PNDIODES, ARPA-E is tackling a specific challenge in wide-bandgap semiconductor production – focusing on a process called selective area doping to allow for the fabrication of devices at a cost competitive to their traditional, silicon-based relatives. The doping process consists of adding a specific impurity to a semiconductor to change its electrical properties, altering its physical makeup to achieve performance characteristics that are useful for electronics. Developing a reliable and usable doping process that can be applied to specific regions of GaN and its alloys is an important obstacle in the fabrication of GaN-based power electronics devices that PNDIODES seeks to overcome. Ultimately, the PNDIODES project teams will develop new ways to build semiconductors for high performance, high-powered applications like aerospace, electric vehicles and the grid.  Details on the seven PNDIODES projects can be found here.

Six Major Higher Education Organizations Submit Letter to Congress on Indirect Costs – Following up from the May 24th hearing by the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee on Facilities & Administrative (F&A) costs, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) with five other higher education organizations released a letter discussing the long standing partnership where the Federal Government provides resources so that universities will conduct research on behalf of the government.  The letter puts into perspective the role of F&A cost reimbursement regarding their calculation and application in the research grant process.  A copy of this letter is available here.

AAAS Releases FY 2018 R&D Budget Dashboard to Track Federal R&D -- As Congress considers President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal, the American Association for the Advancement Science has launched an interactive resource to help keep track of congressional appropriations decisions and their impact on research and development spending levels.  The R&D Appropriations Dashboard, created by AAAS’ R&D Budget and Policy Program, provides an accessible way to monitor a vital process.  The appropriations process involves a dozen separate House and dozen separate Senate measures that impact 12 departments and agencies and multiple offices responsible for carrying out leading science programs. Since the White House released its budget proposal, the R&D Budget and Policy Program has analyzed the impact of the budget blueprint on science programs throughout federal agencies. The latest budget analysis, for instance, reports that while the president’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal calls for 9.4% increase in defense spending, very little of that increase would benefit the Pentagon’s science and technology programs. Indeed, the Defense Department’s S&T programs would decline by about 5.4% below current fiscal 2017 funding levels. Still, the proposed funding level, while a decline, would represent a 3.5% spending increase above FY 2016 levels.  The dashboard – launched on June 5 – displays the president’s requests and will track changes made by the House and Senate appropriations subcommittees and the full committees as they move through each chamber and the final version sent to the president to sign into law. Observers will be able to follow bills through each step of the decision making process. The tool currently presents data from the White House’s May 23 budget proposal. The R&D Budget team will update the dashboard as the House and Senate appropriations panels work through the appropriations system.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

NSF Testifies on FY 2018 Budget Before House Appropriations Subcommittee – On June 7, Dr. France Cordova, Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) testified before the House Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee, chaired by Representative John Culberson (R-TX).  NSF’s budget request for FY 2018 is about 11% below the level appropriated for FY 2017.  During the hearing, Dr. Cordova and Chairman Culberson discussed extensively the importance of sustained funding for basic research using the sustained support provided over the last four decades in gravitational wave detection as a specific example.  Dr. Cordova, in response to issues raised by Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY), the ranking member on the subcommittee, discussed the impact of the FY 2018 budget request noting a 10% reduction in the number of new proposals funded and an expected decline in the success rate from 21% to 19%. 

Rep. Kilmer (D-WA) asked about the importance of support for the geosciences, particularly as it relates to public safety.  He noted the additional reductions proposed for the geosciences in NASA and NOAA.  He stressed his concern that the reduction in resources will result in the loss of information important for earthquakes and tsunami preparations that impact the west coast. 

Rep. Cartwright (D-PA) expressed concern that the U.S. will lose vital scientific talent as a result of the Administration’s proposed reductions.  Dr. Cordova stressed that NSF will do the best it can to support the very best science with the resources available.  Rep. Cartwright also expressed his support for balanced support for all scientific and engineering disciplines while expressing concern for proposals that would have Congress making disciplinary funding decisions.

Chairman Culberson stressed the constraints and composition of the federal budget, emphasizing that 70% of the total goes for entitlement and debt financing, 15% for defense, and 15% for non-defense spending – the component in which the NSF is funded.  He encouraged the scientific community to communicate with decision makers and recognize the need to get entitlement spending and overall federal spending under control. 

Chairman Culberson also asked questions about how the developing Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope (DKIST), formerly the Advanced Technology Solar Telescope, (ATST), could contribute to space weather research important to NOAA and NASA.

Rep. Kilmer, as part of his second round of questioning, discussed the need for investment in new scientific instrumentation and asked if NSF was involved in the Administration’s infrastructure initiative.  Dr. Cordova discussed NSF willingness to work with the Administration and the Congress in support of research infrastructure investments. Rep. Kilmer also cited numerous reports and findings that expressed significant concerns about the reduction in U.S. investment in science and technology.  Dr. Cordova talked about her concern about the potential loss of U.S. leadership in science and technology given the pace upon which our international competitors are increasing their own investments.  Rep. Cartwright expressed concern with the proposed reductions in research support for risk and resilience activities.

Dr. Cordova’s testimony and an archived audio recording of the hearing is available here.

NIH Announces Information on Next Generation Researchers Initiative -- NIH and its stakeholder community have for many years been concerned about the long-term stability of the biomedical research enterprise. Too many researchers vying for limited resources has led to a hypercompetitive environment. Many highly meritorious applications go unfunded. This has often resulted in misaligned incentives and unintended consequences for talented researchers at all career stages who are trying to succeed and stay in science.  The current environment is particularly challenging for many new- and mid-career investigators. To that end NIH is announcing a series of actions to increase the number of NIH-funded early-stage and mid-career investigators by extending the payline for early stage investigators aiming to fund those proposals that score in the top 25 percent.  For more information on this initiative and its impact on NIH awardees click here.  The NIH Director’s statement on this matter can be found here.

Air Force Announces Funding Opportunity in Corrosion Research – the U.S. Air Force Academy Center for Aircraft Structural Life Extension (CAStLE) performs a range of structural integrity research tasks in support of Air Force, Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and other government, academic and commercial sponsors. CAStLE pursues a range of engineering mechanics, mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering, corrosion engineering and material science research efforts, with more emphasis on applied research, and that part of development not related to a specific system or hardware procurement. The interaction between corrosion and cracking damage mechanisms and their effect on the structural integrity has been a long standing interest of CAStLE. There is DoD level interest in material degradation in structures—to include corrosion, cracking and other service-related damage mechanisms. This solicitation is focused on fundamental research that can lead to the future development of capabilities to prevent and control corrosion and degradation of materials and structures of systems and facilities, with the ultimate goal of reducing costs, improving availability of systems, and increasing the safety of military assets, which also serve interest and use to the general public. Projects must be new research efforts. Proposals for the continuation of existing research projects funded under previous grant or cooperative agreement awards are not desired. Collaboration among proposing institutions is strongly encouraged.  More information is available in the solicitation which can be downloaded here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

House Appropriations Subcommittee Hearings on FY 18 Budgets for NOAA, NSF and NASA – Last week Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross appeared before the House Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee (House CJS) to discuss, among other things, the NOAA budget proposal for FY 2018. The Secretary was pressed on the deep cuts to NOAA’s budget in the area of ocean, coastal and Great Lakes research, including the proposed termination of the Sea Grant program and climate research.  Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the ranking member for the full House Appropriations Committee was highly critical of the Administration’s proposals to eliminate Sea Grant, coastal zone management grants, and climate research.  Rep. Lowey invited the Secretary to join her at some future date to visit the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University to gain a greater appreciation for the importance of investing in earth and geosciences.  The Secretary expressed a willingness to make such a visit. 

The Secretary talked about his interest in working on aquaculture given the estimated $13 billion trade deficit in fish and fish products.  The Secretary defended the proposed reductions in NOAA ocean and coastal programs and specifically when questioned about the Sea Grant program he said, “The sea grant program is a successful program, but it is one that primarily benefits industry, state and local stakeholders.”  He went on to stress the need to support NOAA’s core functions of survey, charting and fisheries management.  Rep. Lowey criticized the sea grant cuts as "misguided," stating that the program is "absolutely key" for job creation.  "If the sea grant program is eliminated as President Trump proposes, these states will lose this very valuable program. An archived video of this hearing can be found here.  NSF will appear before the Subcommittee on June 7 and NASA is scheduled to appear on June 8. 

Senator Wicker and Senator Murkowski Sponsor Sea Grant Briefing on Aquaculture – On June 13, the Sea Grant Association will support a briefing, sponsored by Senators Wicker from Mississippi and Murkowski from Alaska that seeks to educate and inform Congressional and other public policy decision makers on the importance of aquaculture to a healthy economy.  Aquaculture entrepreneurs from New England, South Carolina, Mississippi, the Great Lakes, and Alaska will discuss the challenges and opportunities they face as a coastal industry.  The Sea Grant program provides valuable technical assistance through research that assists communities in these economic challenges.  The briefing will take place in the Capitol Visitor Center on the Hill at 11:30AM.  More information on this briefing can be found here

Senate Commerce Committee Reports Out a Number of Marine-Related Measures – On May 18 the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee marked up and reported out – in a bipartisan fashion – the Shark Fin Trade Elimination Act of 2017 (S. 793), a bill to amend the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act of 1998 (S. 1057), and legislation to reauthorize the Maritime Administration (S. 1096).  More information on the Committee’s mark up  of these and other bills can be found here

Department of Energy Announces Dr. Thomas Zacharia as Director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory -- On Wednesday, May 31st, United States Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced the appointment of Dr. Thomas Zacharia as the new Director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).  He was unanimously selected by the UT-Battelle Board of Governors to succeed Dr. Thom Mason as ORNL’s Director.  Dr. Zacharia has accepted this position and will transition to Laboratory Director at ORNL effective July 1, 2017.  Dr. Zacharia’s career at ORNL dates back to 1987, where he started as a postdoctoral researcher, and has since advanced through a variety of roles that make him well versed ORNL, its programs, and the DOE National Laboratories system.  He served most recently as the Deputy Director for Science and Technology at ORNL. In this role, he provided strategic direction for the ORNL budget and research, and collaboration with the physical, energy, engineering, computational, neutron, and nuclear science fields, as well as ORNL’s leadership in global security.    More information on Dr. Zacharia can be found here

The Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council to Meet June 5 -- The Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council (HSAAC) will meet in Washington on June 5 for their 12th meeting as an advisory committee, at the Woodrow Wilson International Center (Wilson Center) for Scholars, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW., 6th Floor, Moynihan Board Room, Washington, DC.  The HSAAC provides advice and recommendations to the Secretary and Department leadership on matters related to homeland security and the academic community.  During the meeting, HSAAC members will be briefed on developments with the Department’s Countering Violent Extremism efforts and present a number of recommendations for Department consideration on the matter.  DHS staff will also outline the 2017 National Seminar and Tabletop Exercise series event (NTTX), which will take place on October 10 – 11 in Salt Lake City at the University of Utah. The two-day event will include workshop sessions, a tabletop exercise and an after-action review session on preparing participants to respond to a campus emergency. This year’s tabletop event will focus on a failure in campus infrastructure caused by cyber-attack. 

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Administration Releases FY 2018 Budget Request -- On May 23rd, the Administration released the details of its FY 2018 Budget.  Recall that in March, the Administration released a summary of its forthcoming budget with “top line” numbers.  This summary was called a “Budget Blueprint”.  With the details in hand, it is clear the Administration is moving to reduce non-defense discretionary funding by an estimated $54 billion or 11% from the FY 2017 level.  With a reduction of that magnitude, most non-defense discretionary agencies and programs are impacted.  As many Members of Congress have said, however, the President’s budget is a proposal and it will be up to the Congress via the appropriations process to determine actual funding levels.  The Administration’s budget proposes to spend $117.7 billion on research and development which represents an estimated 21% reduction from the FY 2017 level.  While basic research at the Department of Defense would grow by 6% and NASA basic research would grow by 3%, the overall support for basic research would decline by 13% with some of the largest reductions (on a percentage basis) taking place with the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Commerce.  Overall Federal support for applied research would decline by an estimated 9%.  Missing from the FY 2018 Budget is the usual interagency cross-cuts of various research initiatives such as; the U.S. Global Change Research Program; nanotechnology; and Networking and Information Technology and Research.  A summary of the Administration’s FY 2108 budget request for selected R&D agencies is available here.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Re-opens Members’ Programmatic Request Database for a Limited Amount of Time – To accommodate Members of Congress who would like to respond to the President’s FY 2018 Request that was released this past week, the Chairman has informed House Members that the Committee will re-open its internal programmatic request process available only to Members of Congress.  The deadline for submissions to the subcommittees on Commerce, Justice, and Science; Defense; Energy and Water; Financial Services; Legislative Branch; and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs will be open until close of business on May 30.  The remaining subcommittees will receive new programmatic requests until close of business June 6, 2017.

House Appropriations Subcommittee Questions Secretary of Commerce on NOAA Funding Reductions – On May 25th the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science held a hearing to examine the Department of Commerce budget request for FY 2018.  Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross presented the Department’s budget to the Subcommittee.  Full Committee Ranking Member, Rep. Nita Lowey, pressed Secretary Ross on the Administration’s proposal to scale back funding for climate and ocean/coastal research activities.  Secretary Ross responded by saying that in the current budget environment, the Administration decided to invest in NOAA’s core or primary programs related to weather, charting, mapping, and fisheries management.  Rep. Lowey called on Secretary Ross to join her in New York to see first-hand the value of such research.

Forty-one Members of the House Call for the Removal of NIH Director Francis Collins – On May 22, 41 Members of the House of Representatives wrote to the President urging him to appoint an NIH Director who aligns with the President’s priorities with respect to embryonic stem cell research and human cloning.  The signatories to this letter are concerned that Dr. Collins “will continue to pursue unethical human embryonic research priorities leftover from the previous Administration.” A copy of the letter can be found here.

NSF Releases Information on the Relocation of its Headquarters this Summer – NSF is moving to its new location in Alexandria, VA this summer.  Due to the move FastLane and Research.gov will be unavailable from June 30 to July 4.  Other information regarding the move and possible disruptions in proposal processing, submittal of project reports, cash requests, etc. can be found in NSF Important Notice 139.  NSF expects to be in its new location, 2415 Eisenhower Avenue, Alexandria, VA, effective October 2, 2017.

House Science Subcommittees Hold Joint Hearing on NSF Indirect Rates — The Subcommittee on Research and Technology and the Subcommittee on Oversight of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology held a hearing titled Examining the Overhead Cost of Research on Wednesday, May 24, 2017  The purpose of the hearing was to examine the overhead costs for conducting federal taxpayer-funded research at universities and non-profit research institutions, including how the National Science Foundation and other federal research agencies negotiate and monitor indirect costs (facilities and administrative costs), and hear recommendations for improving efficiency and transparency.  Witnesses from NSF, GAO, Duke University and Ohio University testified at this hearing.  More information on this hearing can be found here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

President’s Detailed FY 2018 Budget to be Released May 22 – In March the Administration released a Budget Blueprint for FY 2018 which outlined in summary fashion program and budget priorities of the Administration.  On May 22, the Administration is scheduled to release the details of the summary they put out in March.  The budget plan is expected to propose the transfer of $54 billion from non-defense programs to defense programs.  As a result, the Administration’s detailed budget is expected to propose large and unpopular reductions in many non-defense discretionary programs including NIH, NASA, NSF, NOAA, EPA, USGS, and other R&D agencies.  More specifics on the programs impacted by the Administration’s FY 2018 budget plan will be provided upon its release.  Most agencies will hold public briefings and press conferences during the week of May 22 to present their FY 2018 budget proposals.

DOE to Honor All Funding Commitments – After information was released suggesting the Department of Energy (DOE) had stopped processing funding awards for its various energy research programs, DOE issued a memorandum to DOE program offices on May 4 stating that the agency “will honor all commitments for funds previously obligated for grants and cooperative agreements.”  A DOE spokeswoman said that included funding agreements for the entire agency, not just the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The Administration’s FY 2018 budget blueprint calls for eliminating funding for ARPA-E and cutting funding for the agency’s fossil energy, renewable and efficiency programs.  Appropriators largely rejected most proposed DOE cuts for fiscal 2017. Funding levels for fiscal 2018 will be set by the Congress as part of the FY 2018 Appropriations process. The FY 2017 omnibus package that was signed into law on May 5, included increased funding for ARPA-E and the Office of Science.

Economic Development Administration Offers Grants for its Innovation Strategies Program -- On Wednesday, May 10, 2017, EDA began accepting applications under the 2017 Regional Innovation Strategies (RIS) Program Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA). In 2017, $17 million in Federal funding is available for the creation and expansion of cluster-focused proof-of-concept and commercialization program and of early-stage seed capital funds through the i6 Challenge and the 2017 Seed Fund Support Grant competition, respectively. The deadline for submitting applications under the 2017 RIS Program NOFA is June 23, 2017.  Under Section 27 of the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980, EDA currently awards grants that build regional capacity to translate innovations into jobs (1) through proof-of-concept and commercialization assistance to innovators and entrepreneurs and (2) through operational support for organizations that provide essential early-stage risk capital to innovators and entrepreneurs. The RIS Program consists of two separate competitions: the i6 Challenge and Seed Fund Support (SFS) Grants competition. The i6 Challenge is a leading national initiative designed to support the creation of centers for innovation and entrepreneurship that increase the rate at which innovations, ideas, intellectual property, and research are translated into products, services, viable companies, and, ultimately, jobs. Through the SFS Grants competition, EDA provides funding for technical assistance to support the creation, launch, or expansion of equity-based, cluster-focused seed funds that invest regionally-managed risk capital in regionally-based startups with a potential for high growth.

National Science Foundation Offers Grants for Innovation Corps Teams – NSF seeks to nurture a national innovation ecosystem that builds upon fundamental research to guide the output to facilitate the application of scientific discoveries closer to the development of technologies, products and processes that benefit society. To maintain, strengthen and grow a national innovation ecosystem, NSF has established the Innovation Corps - National Innovation Network Teams Program (I-Corps Teams). The NSF I-Corps Teams Program purpose is to identify NSF-funded researchers who will receive additional support in the form of entrepreneurial education, mentoring and funding to accelerate innovation that can attract subsequent third-party funding. The purpose of the NSF I-Corps Teams grant is to give the project team access to resources to help determine the readiness to transition technology developed by previously-funded or currently funded NSF projects. The outcomes of I-Corps Teams projects will be threefold: 1) a clear go /or no go decision regarding viability of products and services, 2) should the decision be to move the effort forward, a transition plan for those projects to move forward, and 3) a definition of a compelling technology demonstration for potential partners. Download a copy of this solicitation here.

DOD Offers STEM Scholarships for Service -- The SMART Scholarship Program was established by Congress to strengthen the DoD science and technology workforce with highly skilled science and engineering professionals. This unique and prestigious program provides scholarships, which include tuition and stipend support to undergraduate and graduate students pursuing degrees in the technical fields listed in the overview of the funding opportunity. While in school, participants perform research as summer interns at DoD laboratories and return to those laboratories after graduation to complete a period of obligated employment service. This provides scholars with a unique opportunity to perform research in their respective area of interest that they would not have otherwise been able to do. The post-graduation employment commitment is equal to or greater than the amount of time the student received scholarship funding under this program. The Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (OASD(R&E))/Research Directorate (RD) manages the SMART Scholarship Program.

Administration Issues Executive Order on Cybersecurity – The President issued a long awaited Executive Order on Cybersecurity on May 11.  The EO is designed to put in place a guiding strategy for cyber defense. Agencies will follow the National Institute for Standards and Technology framework - a set of guidelines developed by NIST to be adaptable to any organization. The executive order tasks the departments of Commerce, Homeland Security, Defense, Labor and Education and the Office of Personnel Management with developing a plan to bolster the cybersecurity workforce. Homeland Security is also instructed to do wide audits of critical infrastructure for security.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Last week, the Congress reached agreement and President signed into law an omnibus appropriations bill that will fund the Federal Government for the balance of FY 2017.  Overall the bill meets the FY 2017 spending caps in law appropriating $1.070 trillion in discretionary budget authority.  In March of this year, the Administration proposed the reduction of non-defense programs by $18 billion to partially pay for supplemental increases of $33 billion for defense and border security activities including initial construction of a southern border wall.  Some of those proposed reductions would have come from NSF, NOAA, EPA, USGS, etc.  The Congress largely rejected those reductions to non-defense programs in their final version of the FY17 omnibus.  The Congress has provided half of the Administration’s supplemental request for the Department of Defense, adding $15 billion in overseas contingency operations funding.  The Congress did not support the Administration’s request to begin construction on the wall, but instead provides $1.1 billion for border security technologies and infrastructure. 

National Science Foundation (NSF) – NSF is provided with $7.5 billion that is $8.7 million more than FY 2016 and $66 million above the House bill. The funding is provided for basic research across all scientific disciplines and to support the development of effective Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics [STEM] programs, and grow the next generation of scientists. In addition, the funding will support programs that foster innovation, including funding for advanced manufacturing research, physics, mathematics, cybersecurity and neuroscience.

For Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction, $209 million, an increase of $9 million is included of which $122 million in funding is provided to facilitate planning and construction of 3 regional class research vessels.  NSF Education and Human Resources programs are primarily level funded, and $15 million is included to establish a Hispanic Serving Institution program that will build capacity at institutions that typically do not receive high levels of NSF funding.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) -- $19.65 billion for NASA, which is $1.4 billion above the FY 2017 discretionary request; $368.3 million more than the FY2016 enacted level and $145.3 million more than the House bill.  These funds are to support the human and robotic exploration of space; fund science missions that enhance the understanding of the Earth, solar system, and the universe; and support fundamental aeronautics research.  Nearly all the increase in NASA science would go to planetary sciences with funding specifically provided for a mission to Europa and a Mars 2020 mission.  Earth sciences would remain level with last year’s mark avoiding a 12% reduction initially proposed by the House. 

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) -- $5.68 billion for NOAA, which is $90.2 million less than the FY 2016 enacted level and $94.9 million more than the House bill. $517.4 million for National Ocean Service operating expenses, which is $17.3 million more than the FY 2016 enacted level and $42.3 million more than the House bill. Increases above both FY 2016 and the House bill are provided for Coastal Science and Assessment, and Sanctuaries and Marine Protected Areas. Coastal Zone Management grants are $10 million above FY16 and in line with the Senate’s FY17 mark at $85 million. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) Regional Observations receives a $1.2 million increase over the FY16 level, coming in at $30.7 million. Marine Sanctuaries and Marine Protected Areas see slight growth to $51 million -- $2 million more than FY16. The National Estuarine Research Reserve System is funded at $23.5 million and Prescott grants were restored to their FY16 level.  Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing enforcement received an increase of $1 million over FY 16 to combat IUU fishing. Marine debris received an increase of $500K. NOAA Education was restored to $26.9 million; the Administration had proposed reducing NOAA education to $16.5 million.

NOAA Research (OAR) received $477.7 million for operations, research, and facilities, which is $15.8 million more than the FY 2016 enacted level and $40.1 million more than the House bill. Within OAR a total of $72.5 million is provided for the Sea Grant program of which $9.5 million is for marine aquaculture. An additional $9.3 million is provided in NOAA Fisheries for aquaculture.  Within OAR, ocean acidification is funded at $10.5 million; cooperative institutes for ocean, coastal, and Great Lakes Research is funded at a total of $32 million. NOAA climate research is restored to its FY 16 level of $158 million. Regional climate data and information is funded at $38 million.  For climate-related cooperative institutes $60.0 million is provided.  The original House mark for these climate research activities was $128 million.  Weather and Air chemistry cooperative institutes are funded at a total of $80 million.  Increases are provided for Weather and Air Chemistry Research and Ocean, Coastal, and Great Lakes Research.  Within Weather and Air Chemistry Research strong funding is provided for the U.S. Weather Research Program and the Joint Technology Transfer program while $1 million is provided for the Research Transition Acceleration program.

The National Weather Service received $979.8 million for operating expenses, which is $9.1 million less than the FY 2016 enacted level and $9.1 million less than the House bill.  The bill provides full funding for NOAA’s weather satellites, which are critical for accurate weather warnings to protect lives and property. The bill maintains funding investments for fisheries management, including the testing and implementation of new technologies to expand opportunities for American commercial and recreational fishermen. Funding is also included to allow NOAA to execute its fleet recapitalization plan, which is a strategic plan to replace the agency’s oldest research vessels. Funding for NWS observations ($216 million) is level with FY16.  Funding for NWS Science and Technology is $136.5 millio - about $2 million less than FY 16.

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) – NIST is funded at $952 million -- $12 million below the FY 2016 level.  Core research activities are funded at $690 million.  Funding for the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation and the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership would remain level with FY 2016.

National Institutes of Health (NIH) – NIH received a $2 billion increase with funding targeted to Alzheimer's disease, the brain, antibiotic resistance, and the Precision Medicine Initiative. The bill also provides a general increase to all NIH Institutes and Centers to continue progress in developing new treatments and cures, including increases for Clinical and Translational Science Awards and Institutional Development Awards. The legislation continues support for the Gabriella Miller Kids First pediatric research initiative.

As a result of the focus on Alzheimer’s, the National Institute on Aging received a 28% increase.  The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), NIH’s second largest institute received a 6% increase. General Medical Sciences, which supports and conducts basic research on biological processes and living systems received a 5.5% increase.  Most other institutes would receive at least inflationary increases. The omnibus funds the Precision Medicine Initiative at $120 million; the BRAIN Initiative at $110 million; and antibiotic resistance research at $50 million. An extra $300 million was also transferred to the National Cancer Institute in accord with 21st Century Cures and its support of the Cancer Moonshot, resulting in a 9.1 percent increase for NCI overall. 

DOD Science and Technology - DOD science and technology spending would see a general increase across most military branches and agencies concentrated on applied research and advanced technology in sensors, materials, and other areas. Basic science funded via the Navy would be cut by 16.2 percent, which is offset by increases for basic research in the other branches. DOD’s medical research account, which funds intramural and extramural research on an array of health-related topics, would be subject to a small 0.9 percent cut. Congress added over $900 million for research on cancer, traumatic brain injury, and other areas.  DOD also received its request to continue its manufacturing innovation institutes

DOE Science and Technology - The bill provides $5.392 billion, $42 million more than the fiscal year 2016 level, for the Office of Science. The Office of Science is the largest federal sponsor of basic research in the physical sciences, and supports 22,000 researchers at 17 national laboratories and more than 300 universities.

The bill prioritizes materials research, high performance computing and biology to maintain U.S. scientific leadership. The bill also provides $4.311 billion for applied energy programs, $123 million more than the fiscal year 2016 level. This funding supports research, development, demonstration and deployment of an extensive range of clean energy technologies, including for nuclear, fossil and renewable energy applications. This amount includes $306 million for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to develop next-generation, innovative energy technologies.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – The bill trimmed the EPA budget by $81 million, or about 1%, to $8.06 billion.  Congress rejected the Administration’s requests for significant further reductions to select research and ecosystem protection programs, and dropped many policy riders.  The agency’s science and technology programs, however, did take a $28 million, 3.8% cut, to $707 million.  The White House had identified some $230 million in EPA cuts it wanted Congress to make this year, including a $48 million cut to climate-related research, a $49 million cut to EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and $30 million cut to efforts to clean up contaminated superfund sites. Instead, Congress rejected those requests, keeping air and climate research flat at about $117 million, and the Great Lakes program flat at $300 million, while adding $7.5 million to superfund cleanups.

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) – USGS received a 2.2% increase.  There are additional resources for arctic research and land remote sensing activities.  The Natural Hazards program within USGS would receive additional funding for continued development of an earthquake early warning system and volcano detection.

Administration Position on Omnibus -- On May 2, the White House issued a Statement of Administration Position (SAP) regarding the FY17 omnibus saying that if the bill was presented to the President in its current form, his senior advisors would recommend that he sign it into law.

More information on the details of the FY17 omnibus appropriations act can be found here, here, here, and here.

 

A Periodic Federal Science Upate

Federal Government Shutdown Averted for a Week While Members Ready Omnibus for FY 2017 for a Vote Next Week – On Friday, April 28 the House and Senate quickly approved a one week extension of the current FY 2017 continuing resolution (CR), keeping the Federal Government operating until May 5.  This CR has kept most Federal agencies and programs operating at the FY 2016 level since the start of fiscal year 2017 (October 1, 2016).  The House and Senate have been working to complete an omnibus appropriations act for FY 2017, that if passed and signed into law, would fund the Federal Government for the remaining five months of the fiscal year.  Negotiators insist they are very close to completing their discussions on the FY 2017 spending measure.  A couple of potential “show stopping” issues were dropped from inclusion in the omnibus including funding for the border security wall, however several other troublesome policy issues still remain on the table including: protections for endangered species and public lands; the Labor Department’s “fiduciary rule” on financial advice for retirees; several Securities and Exchange Commission rules on pay ratios; and financial relief for Puerto Rico.  Congressional negotiators hope to complete and file the omnibus by Monday night setting up a final vote in both chambers by the end of next week.

One Hundred and Thirty Different Organizations Submit Testimony on the Importance of Geosciences Research to National Security Economic Development, and Public Safety – Last week 130 different organizations including major research universities, commercial interests, marine laboratories, and various societies and associations signed onto a piece of testimony that was submitted to both House and Senate Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittees.  The testimony focused on the importance of the research conducted by NOAA and NASA and the support provided by those agencies and the NSF to the academic community for research and training activities.  A copy of that testimony can be downloaded here.

A Periodic Federal Science Update

Testimony Regarding Fiscal Year 2018 Funding for

NSF, NASA, and NOAA

Submitted to the

Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies

Committee on Appropriations,

House of Representatives

April 28, 2017

Dear Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: Thank you for the opportunity to present testimony from the organizations and institutions listed below recommending strong and balanced funding for the research programs of NSF, NASA, and NOAA.  A strong and balanced research portfolio should include support for the geosciences – by which we mean the earth sciences, the ocean sciences, and the atmospheric sciences. 

These disciplines are vital contributors to this Nation’s national security, economic competitiveness, and public safety.

While an estimated $60 billion in losses were attributed to Superstorm Sandy, the accurate forecast enabled evacuations and other actions that saved an enormous number of lives. Hundreds of thousands of people lived on land flooded catastrophically by the storm, but the total number of deaths was less than 150, due to timely warnings and evacuations. The impact would have been much worse if Sandy had hit just fifteen years ago, when hurricane forecasts extended only three days into the future, as opposed to five days in 2012. Over the last several decades, forecasts have improved steadily in accuracy, due to continuous improvements in both observations from satellites and aircraft, in the weather prediction models, and in the data assimilation methods used to combine models and observations to produce forecasts. Without these advances – all built on the foundation of broad and deep research programs at NOAA, NASA, and NSF - forecasters would never have seen Sandy’s last minute westward turn into New Jersey, but with them they were able to see it five days ahead of time. The resulting accurate and timely forecasts by our academic-government-commercial weather enterprise allowed nearly a week of preparations by governments (local, state, and federal), businesses, institutions, and families, and undoubtedly made a life or death difference for many thousands of people?

How did we acquire this life-saving weather forecasting system?  The short answer is that consistent funding for research, observations, infrastructure, and training by the Federal research agencies, thanks to this Subcommittee, the Congress, and ultimately the taxpayers – in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and education – produced that capability. These investments supported everything from basic research in mathematics and the physical sciences, the computer sciences, and the geosciences to the development of sophisticated models, satellites, radar, and parachute-borne instrument packages that could make the key observations.  Those investments also allowed us to develop an understanding of how the Earth, the oceans, and the atmosphere collectively impact our weather and the environmental conditions that ensued. They enabled us to develop and run forecast models on advanced computing systems that turned huge amounts of raw observations into “actionable advice” for businesses, local and state governments, and our citizens. These advances were coupled with investments in education and training that created the talented and dedicated workforce needed to put it all together.  Finally, a host of innovative technologies and the application of social science-informed best practices in communications allowed all this information to be presented in a manner that people could understand and on which they could act.

The Geosciences and National Security

In September 2016, the Center for Climate and Security released a report entitled, Military Expert Panel Report – Sea Level Rise and the U.S. Military’s Mission. The panel included retired flag officers from all the Armed Services: General Ronald Keys, USAF (ret); Lieutenant General John Castellaw, USMC (ret); Vice Admiral Robert Parker, USCG (ret); Rear Admiral Jonathan White, USN (ret); and Brigadier General Gerald Galloway, USA (ret). The expert panel concluded that risks of sea level rise to coastal military installations and supporting civil infrastructure will present serious threats to military readiness, operations, and strategy. The panel concluded that policies and plans for addressing climate change risks must go beyond infrastructure resilience, and into the realm of operations and strategy.

The authors recommend that policy-makers support comprehensive and preventive measures to address increasing risks from sea level rise. Recommendations included: building capacity to address infrastructural, operational, and strategic risks; gaming out catastrophic climate scenarios in planning; tracking trends in climate impacts; and collaborating with adjacent civilian communities. To get ahead of the risks, policy makers will need the research and the educated and trained workforce that comes from the geosciences community. They will need the basic research, computing, and modeling that comes from the support NSF provides the academic research community. They will also need the data, observational capabilities, computing, and modeling that NASA and NOAA can provide.

The Geosciences – Producing a Workforce for U.S. Industry

The geosciences research that NSF, NASA, and NOAA fund helps educate and train the next generation of geoscientists. Using data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the American Geosciences Institute calculated a total of 324,411 geoscience jobs in 2014, and this number is expected to increase by 10% by 2024 to a total of 355,862 jobs. Approximately 156,000 geoscientists are expected to retire by 2024, but over the next decade, approximately 58,000 students will be graduating with their bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degrees in the geosciences. According to the American Geosciences Institute’s (AGI) Status of the Geoscience Workforce 2016, given minimal non-retirement attrition from the geoscience workforce, there is expected to be a deficit of approximately 90,000 geoscientists by 2024.

Industry hiring of geoscience graduates fluctuates between sectors, with the oil and gas sector taking on some 60 percent of recent Master’s graduates who gained employment in the geosciences, and the environmental services sector hiring the largest share (31 percent) of recent Bachelors graduates who stayed in the geosciences, according to the American Geosciences Institute’s Status of Recent Geoscience Graduates 2016 report. Other industries hiring geoscientists include mining, construction, agriculture, transportation, and information technology services, all of which contribute to our national infrastructure. NSF, NASA, and NOAA support for the geosciences contributes significantly to the education and training of these individuals via programs in research, graduate and undergraduate student support.

The Geosciences and Economic Competitiveness – Research Yielding Economic Benefits

The Federal investment in the geosciences provided the fundamental understanding of geologic structures and processes necessary to utilize hydraulic fracturing (fracking) processes to release oil from shale formations. The ability of U.S. companies to develop these natural resources is built upon decades of fundamental research and technology development in the earth sciences. According to a 2013 report from U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 21st Century Energy Institute, fracking has created a job boom even in states that don’t have shale deposits, with 1.7 million jobs already created and a total of 3.5 million projected by 2035.

Research on hot-spring-dwelling microbes in Yellowstone National Park resulted in development of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a technology that made the molecular biology revolution possible. Scientists discovered that hot spring microbes utilize enzymes that are resistant to the high temperatures required for PCR. PCR is the process by which scientists can generate copies of a single strand or piece of DNA and is indispensable for the multi-billion-dollar biotechnology industry.

Moreover, private enterprise – ranging from insurance companies and large engineering firms to the marine and overland shipping sectors and to small farmers – increasingly relies on the results of the long-term weather, climate, and other natural hazards research enabled by government and university scientists to make strategic management decisions. The Nation’s private sector needs to incorporate weather and climate risks into its risk-management portfolios to remain globally competitive. Industries that rely on global supply chains and distribution centers, such as the major overnight shipping companies, are beginning to use the results of fundamental geoscience research in their day-to-day decision making as well as long-term strategic planning.

The Geosciences and Public Safety

The benefit of the investment in public weather forecasts and warnings is substantial: the estimated annualized benefit is about $31.5 billion, compared with the $5.1 billion cost of generating the information (Lazo et al., 2009). In 2016, there were 15 weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding $1 billion each across the United States. These events included a drought event, four flooding events, eight severe storm events, a tropical cyclone event, and a wildfire event. Overall, these events resulted in the deaths of 138 people and had significant economic effects on the areas impacted.

We continue to experience extreme weather events in nearly every region of the country.  Tornadoes in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri; floods in Louisiana; droughts in Texas; and blizzards in New England. According to the NAS Report, When Weather Matters, the annual impacts of adverse weather on the national highway system and roads are staggering: 1.5 million weather-related crashes with 7,400 deaths, more than 700,000 injuries, and $42 billion in economic losses (BTS, 2007) and $4.2 billion is lost each year because of weather-related air traffic delays (NOAA, 2010). The death, destruction, and economic harm communities and businesses experience from these and other weather events could be further reduced with continued research and training in the geosciences.

Technologies and observing systems developed to examine the fundamental earth structure have also provided data and enabled models necessary for forecasting and estimating the impact resulting from major earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and landslides. Understanding of disaster events enables business and government to engage in informed risk management and mitigation and to develop response strategies. When an event does occur, early warnings for evacuation based on timely forecasts and characterization of these disasters has the potential to save billions of dollars and countless lives.  For example, EarthScope is a NSF program that has deployed thousands of seismic, GPS, and other geophysical techniques to explore the structure and evolution of the North American continent and to understand the processes controlling earthquakes and volcanoes. Thousands of geophysical instruments create a dense grid covering the continental United States. Scientists from multiple disciplines have joined together to conduct research using the large influx of freely accessible data being produced.  The data collected through EarthScope and other NSF research investments are critical for the development of an earthquake early warning system.  As the data is collected and disseminated in real-time, computers, communications technology, and alarms are devised to notify the public when an earthquake is in progress.  Just ten seconds of warning that an earthquake is occurring is enough to halt trains, shut off gas lines, and open emergency bay doors for first responders.

Concluding Thoughts

We appreciate the difficult decisions Congress must make within the constraints of the budget environment.  We have provided several examples where the geosciences contribute to the Nation’s national security, economic competitiveness, and public safety.  We believe that the future of this Nation is well served by a strong and sustained investment in the full scope of our research enterprise – including the geosciences programs sponsored by NSF, NASA, and NOAA.  This Subcommittee has consistently been a strong champion for the Nation’s research enterprise and, despite the budget challenges that it must confront, we urge you to maintain the high priority the Subcommittee has long placed on research and training in all fields of science and engineering.

  1. Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Earth Institute, Columbia University
  2. University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
  3. National Association of Marine Laboratories
  4. Consortium for Ocean Leadership
  5. Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology
  6. American Geophysical Union
  7. American Meteorological Society
  8. Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
  9. Aerospace Industries Association
  10. The Weather Company, an IBM Business
  11. Vaisala, Inc.
  12. Atmospheric and Environmental Research, Inc.
  13. Cleantech San Diego
  14. Aquaai Corporation
  15. Highwave Ocean Energy
  16. MRV SYSTEMS LLC (Marine Robotic Vehicles)
  17. Ocean Innovations
  18. RBR USA
  19. American Wave Machines, Inc.
  20. Reinsurance Association of America
  21. American Energy Society
  22. Catalina Offshore Products Inc.
  23. Analytics Ventures
  24. Grassy Bar Oyster Company, Inc.
  25. Teledyne RDI Instruments 
  26. Assure Controls, Inc.
  27. BMT Group
  28. Deep Ocean Engineering, Inc
  29. OceanGate, Inc.
  30. FlyWire Cameras
  31. National Instruments
  32. Ocean Aero, Inc.
  33. Del Mar Oceanographic
  34. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
  35. UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography
  36. The Geological Society of America
  37. American Geosciences Institute
  38. University of California System
  39. Penn State University
  40. University of Oklahoma
  41. University of Wisconsin-Madison
  42. University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
  43. University of California, Irvine
  44. University of Georgia
  45. University of Arizona
  46. University of Washington
  47. The University of Texas at Austin
  48. Texas A&M University
  49. University of Colorado Boulder
  50. Oregon State University
  51. University of New Hampshire
  52. University of Delaware
  53. Colorado School of Mines
  54. University of California, Davis
  55. Iowa State University
  56. Michigan Technological University
  57. School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, University of Hawaii at Manoa
  58. Rutgers University–New Brunswick
  59. Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute
  60. Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, Brown University
  61. The University of Texas at Austin Marine Science Institute
  62. Annis Water Resources Institute, Grand Valley State University
  63. National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado
  64. The School for Marine Science and Technology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
  65. Sitka Sound Science Center, Alaska
  66. Large Lakes Observatory, University of Minnesota Duluth
  67. Savannah State University
  68. Grice Marine Laboratory, College of Charleston
  69. Belle W. Baruch Institute for Marine and Coastal Sciences, University of South Carolina
  70. Patuxent Environmental and Aquatic Research Laboratory, Morgan State University
  71. National Ground Water Association
  72. National Estuarine Research Reserve Association
  73. North Carolina A&T State University Division of Research and Economic Development
  74. Metropolitan State University of Denver
  75. Earth & Planetary Sciences, The Johns Hopkins University
  76. Romberg Tiburon Center for Environmental Studies, San Francisco State University
  77. National Weather Service Employees Organization
  78. Institute for Global Environmental Strategies
  79. School of the Earth, Ocean, and Environment, University of South Carolina, Columbia
  80. Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (Bermuda and New York)
  81. The Oceanography Society
  82. Jacksonville University Marine Science Research Institute
  83. The Ocean Foundation
  84. Council on Undergraduate Research
  85. UNAVCO, Inc.
  86. The Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation
  87. Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve
  88. Department of Marine Outreach, Rutgers University
  89. University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
  90. Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, University of Georgia
  91. School of Freshwater Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
  92. National Association of Geoscience Teachers
  93. American Association of Geographers
  94. Soil Science Society of America
  95. Hatfield Marine Science Center, Newport Oregon
  96. University of California Santa Cruz
  97. College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences at the University of Alaska Fairbanks
  98. North Carolina State University, Center for Marine Sciences & Technology
  99. Institute for Water and Environment, Florida International University 
  100. Association of Ecosystem Research Centers 
  101. Stony Brook University
  102. Desert Research Institute
  103. George Mason University
  104. University of South Florida – College of Marine Science
  105. Utah State University
  106. The Weather Coalition
  107. Boston University
  108. Florida State University
  109. San Francisco State University
  110. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Institute of Marine Sciences
  111. University of Miami
  112. Washington State University
  113. University of Denver
  114. St. Cloud State University
  115. Earth2Ocean, Inc.
  116. Virginia Institute of Marine Science
  117. School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences at Stanford University
  118. Lyndon State College
  119. Department of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Utah
  120. University of Oregon
  121. Oregon Institute of Marine Biology
  122. University of Connecticut
  123. The University of Alaska Fairbanks
  124. University of Maine Darling Marine Center
  125. University of Louisiana at Lafayette and the Louisiana Immersive Technologies Enterprise
  126. University of Pittsburgh
  127. FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute
  128. Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences
  129. Duke University Marine Laboratory
  130. California State University Council on Ocean Affairs, Science & Technology

A Periodic Federal Science Update

April 28 Deadline Looms for FY 2017 USG Funding –House and Senate Appropriators are trying to finish up negotiations on the FY 2017 omnibus appropriations measure that would fund the Federal Government for the remaining five months of this fiscal year. Still to be resolved are questions related to supplemental funding for defense programs and border security including startup funding for The Wall.  The Administration had asked for $18 billion in reductions to nondefense programs in FY 2017 to partially pay for additional defense costs and border security activities.  These reductions are proposed to come from many nondefense programs including NSF research, NOAA ocean and coastal programs including Sea Grant, and NIH.  Many Members of Congress have dismissed these proposed reductions coming so late in the FY 2017 process.  At the same time, the White House is said to be pushing hard for startup funding for the wall in FY 2017 and the Appropriators may have to find a way to accommodate that issue.  The current Continuing Resolution funds the Federal Government until April 28.  When Congress returns from its current recess it will have only a few days to pass legislation to keep the Federal Government from shutting down.

First Weather Bill Since 1992 Signed into Law – On April 18, President Trump signed into law the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act of 2107.  This is the first piece of weather legislation signed into law since 1992.  This bill authorizes several programs to enhance weather forecasting and alerts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA's Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research must conduct a program to improve forecasting of weather events and their effects, with a special focus on high impact weather events. The National Weather Service must collect and utilize information to make reliable and timely foundational forecasts of subseasonal and seasonal temperature and precipitation. Subseasonal forecasting is forecasting weather between two weeks and three months and seasonal forecasting is between three months and two years. The bill provides for technology transfer between the National Weather Service and private sector weather companies and universities to improve forecasting. NOAA must complete and operationalize the Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere, and Climate (a weather satellite program which develops observational techniques using global navigation systems). Additionally, NOAA may contract with the private sector to obtain data for weather forecasting. NOAA must continue its Environmental Information Services Working Group, which advises NOAA on weather research and opportunities to improve communications between weather stakeholders.

NSF Announces Support for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) Research Initiation Initiative -- This NSF solicitation encourages potentially transformative proposals in any area of CISE research from PIs who are in their first academic position post-PhD. The goal is for the PI to achieve research independence early in his or her career. The CISE Research Initiation Initiative (CRII) is part of CISE's strategy to increase its investments in the development and growth of the research capabilities of future generations of computer and information scientists and engineers, including computational and data scientists and engineers. This solicitation provides the opportunity for early-career researchers to recruit and mentor their first graduate students (or undergraduate students, in the case of faculty at undergraduate and two-year institutions), which is one critical step in a career pathway that is expected to lead to research independence and a subsequent stream of projects, discoveries, students and publications. CRII awards will be given to researchers to undertake exploratory investigations, to acquire and test preliminary data, develop collaborations with other research disciplines, and/or develop new algorithms, approaches, and system designs, which may lead to improved capacity to write successful proposals submitted to other programs in the future. More information on this program can be found here.

Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Arctic Mobile Observing System/Science Initiative -- The "Arctic Mobile Observing System/Science" is an Office of Naval Research (ONR) Departmental Research Initiative, or DRI, which is expected to run from FY17-FY21. Research funded under this effort is expected to result in new sensors, platforms, and techniques that will enable the sustainment of a mobile observing capability that can enhance our scientific understanding of the physical Arctic Ocean environment and lead to improved predictions for this region. The primary focus of the AMOS DRI will be on mobile systems that drift with the sea ice cover and/or operate autonomously within the water column, but all ideas and concepts will be considered. The overall goal of the effort will be to advance new mobile observing methodologies that will enable studies of sea ice dynamics and thermodynamics and improve our understanding of the circulation and evolution of water masses in the Arctic.  The DRI will run for five years, with deployment opportunities and in situ observational studies expected to occur in 2018, 2019, and 2020. Collaborations with international researchers and other observational programs are encouraged. Planning letters for research to be supported under the AMOS DRI should be prepared according to standard guidelines.

Innovation: An American Imperative to Release Progress Report on April 24:  In 2015 several key business, science, and universities released an innovation agenda designed to advise policy makers on actions they should take to help the United States maintain its leadership in in productivity and economic growth.  That agenda, called the Innovation Imperative endorsed by more than 500 leading organizations, included the following recommendations:  renew the federal commitment to scientific discovery; make permanent a strengthened federal R&D tax credit: improve student achievement in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM); reform U.S. visa policy; take steps to streamline or eliminate costly and inefficient regulations; reaffirm merit-based peer review: and stimulate further improvements in advanced manufacturing.  On April 24, the organizations making up this innovation initiative will release the latest progress report on implementing these recommendations.  Learn more about the Innovation Imperative, and read the latest progress report starting April 24 here.

NOAA Science Advisory Board (SAB) to Meet – On April 24 and 25 the NOAA Science Advisory Board will be meeting in open (public) session.  The meeting will take place at the DoubleTree by Hilton, 8727 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, MD.  The meeting will include the following topics: (1) Draft Report on Indigenous and Local Ecological Knowledge and NOAA; (2) Proposal for Creation of a High Performance Computing Standing Working Group; (3) Discussion of the Process to Review SAB Standing Working Groups; (4) Discussion of Short-Term Topics for the SAB; (5) Discussion on SAB Transition Materials; and (6) Updates from the Acting NOAA Administrator and Acting Chief Scientist.  The full agenda for the two day meeting can be found here.  Reports and other documents associated with this meeting can be found here.